A bee hotel makes the perfect nesting site for female solitary bees, including red mason bees and leafcutter bees. These solitary bees are not aggressive and are highly unlikely to sting. Unlike social bees like bumblebees and honeybees, solitary bees nest individually, laying eggs in hollow stems such as bamboo, teasel and sunflower stems.
How to make a bee hotel
Make a wooden box and fill it with hollow stems such as old flower stalks or bamboo canes, which you have dried thoroughly and cut to size. Ideally, holes should vary in diameter between 2mm and 10mm, to attract the widest range of species.
Site your bee hotel in a sunny spot, ideally so it gets the morning sun. To reduce the risk of fungal infections and predators, take down your bee hotel every autumn and store it in a cool, dry location such as your shed. Replace the hollow stems with fresh ones every spring, as soon as the new adults have emerged.
In this No Fuss video guide, wildlife gardening expert Kate Bradbury shows how to make a simple bee hotel that solitary bees will nest in. Having made a small wooden house, she adds a range of hollow stems gathered from the garden, including fennel and sunflower, as well as bamboo canes, to ensure the holes are different sizes for different species of bee. She also explains where to position the bee hotel in order to attract as many visitors as possible:
More on bees and bee hotels:
Follow our step-by-step guide to making a bee hotel, below.
You Will Need
- A plank of untreated wood or ply at least 10cm wide
- Hollow stems such as reeds, bamboo canes or old flower stems
- Wood saw
- A mirror fixing for hanging the hotel
Cut the plank into four pieces to make a rectangular frame for the bee hotel. Drill guide holes for the screws and assemble the frame as if making a box. Paint the wood if you would like to and allow to dry.
Use secateurs or a saw to cut your stems to the same depth as the box. A saw is preferable to secateurs for thicker stems as the stems are less likely to split. Sand away any rough edges.
Carefully pack the frame of the bee hotel with the stems – only as you add the final few does the whole lattice lock solid. Hang your bee hotel on a sunny wall, sheltered from the rain, and wait for the mason bees to investigate.
Kate Bradbury says
Leafcutter bees typically use rose, beech and wisteria leaves to seal the individual brood cells in the hollow stems. Why not give them a helping hand by growing these plants in your garden? You’ll quickly see when your hotel is in use as you’ll spot bees carrying pieces of leaf to seal their brood cells.