Pollinator Garden:  The Bee Hotel

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Today I finished my Bee Hotel.  I am so excited!

Usually when we think of bees and flowers, we think honeybees.  We think big wooden hives and a guy in a white heavy suit with thick gloves and a big netted hat on his head. We don’t think of solitary bees, flies or wasps.   But really the honeybees make up only a small part of the activity in a pollinator garden. The other guys, mason bees, carpenter bees, bumble bees, flies, butterflies, and the like, that are the ones doing most of the work.

{Just a note about bees and bee stings: Most bees are not aggressive and they will just move out of your way if you disturb them.  They are used to the wind blowing around the plants they are working on  so they just go away and come back like the ocean tide.  There are the Africanized variety of bees that do attack, but they are located in limited areas.  If you are stung by  a bee, regardless of the type, and you are allergic, or notice you are having reactions, please get to a doctor for care.}

Back to the reason for a bee hotel.  Most bees tend to be solitary.  They hibernate over the winter, but have different preferences on where they tuck in to sleep. Some prefer to dig nests in the ground.  So they like bare dirt that is fairly firm.   Others like to sleep in tunnels that they pack with food and mud.  Still others like bundles of straw or to hide in clay pots.   A good bee hotel with have a variety of nesting options.

The structure itself can be in different shapes and sizes as well.   I have seen everything from simple bundles of hanging bamboo cane, to intricate honeycomb shaped yard art with all sorts of nooks and crannies.  For me, I’m trying to use up things I have scattered around the yard.

I’m using boards and concrete blocks for my hotel.  My first attempt was a little wonky.  The boards I have are a little on the narrow side, so by the 3rd shelf, it wobbled a bit.  I decided to change locations and anchor the board to the fence behind it.  It’s not quite the placement I wanted, but I can always move it again if I don’t get any “guests” visiting the hotel.

Construction was basically like making my college dorm  room book shelf. Concrete blocks on either side, topped by a board. Then more concrete blocks, and another board, until I had three levels. I attached the board to the fence  on both ends, with an “L” bracket , for stability. I could have used construction adhesive, but I didn’t want to have anything on the boards that might make the insects ill. Doing the “L” brackets on the boards sort of locked the blocks and the boards together, stopping the wobble issue.

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On top of the last board, I put two large boards that I had on hand to act as a roof with an overhang.  I used some concrete chips to raise the back of the board up a little, so that during the winter, any water would drain off.

Now it was time to fill the bee hotel. I used the following:

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Pinecones. I had a lot of these around the yard. They have lots of nooks and crannies for the insect to hide it.

Short Straw Pieces. I took small amounts about 4” long and stuffed them here and there. They make good nests for some insects.

Drilled wood logs.  These were short log pieces about the same width as my shelves.  I drilled in about 3 “ using a few different sized bits, for different sized bees. These are for bees that like tunnels.

 

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Flower pot, on it’s side with dirt packed in. For the burrowing bees.

Washed dog food cans with paper straws packed in.  Some bees like the paper tubes better than the bored wood. If you don’t have any paper straws, you can roll up pieces of paper and pack those into the cans.  It has the same effect.

Rolled carpet pieces.  Some insects like to hid in the layers.

Twigs and sticks.  Bugs love these!

A few rocks piled together. Just more places for insects to hide.

I did put some poultry netting in front of the hotel to keep the birds away.  Right now I just have some concrete pieces holding it in place, later I will anchor it down with some screws.

And that’s it.  It took a little time to plan it out and gather the materials, but the project went together pretty fast.  It would be a fun family project.  Maintenance is pretty easy.  You set it up in the summer.  In the late spring, check to see that any occupants have left, replace the paper tubes (so no diseases develop), replace any straw that is molding or weathered with fresh stuff.

If you decide to do a bee hotel, let me know how it goes.  I love seeing people’s projects!

One thought on “Pollinator Garden:  The Bee Hotel

  1. I have the black carpenter bee’s that live in the wood of my shed. They are really big. I can’t wait to see how your hotel goes.

    Like

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