Attract solitary bees to your garden by adding a bee hotel. BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine’s wildlife expert, Kate Bradbury, explains the different types available, from DIY versions that cost a few pounds to make to deluxe shop-bought versions, complete with viewing chambers and release chambers. She also looks at pre-drilled bricks, perfect if you’re adding an extension to your home.
Types of bee hotel: transcript
One of the best things you can do for wild bees in your garden is to create nesting habitats. Solitary bees, in particular, benefit from small holes, where they can make individual nests for their young.
Also known as bee hotels, there’s a range to buy and you can also make your own. This one here, I made myself; and it just comprises a simple box structure filled with hollow plants, stems of different diameters to attract a variety of different solitary bee species. This is similar design that you can buy, which incorporates a solitary nesting habitat at the bottom and then has bark chippings here, which double up as a sort of bug home; and you might find here a ladybird hibernating or a lacewing come in, sheltering from the rain or on an overcast day.
Now, if you’re really serious about solitary bees, then these two products are amazing. This one here has a viewing pane which you open up and you can see the bees nesting inside. So the bees go in and they lay an egg and they leave it with a parcel of pollen and nectar and they seal it up. And red mason bees use mud to seal the nests; leafcutter bees use leaves to seal their nests. And they just go along and over the course of summer, they just fill these up. And you can watch them do it. This model also has a release chamber here, the idea being, that at the end of the season, you can take this out, unscrew the perspex sheet and gently tease out the cocoons. And then you remove them, you put these panels back on, all nice and clean, ready for next year. And then the cocoons, you pop in this little release chamber here, and they all go in there at the bottom and they’re safe from birds.
This one is designed on a similar principle. It’s a more robust design but again, you have the viewing chamber at the top here. You still have a release chamber, but this is screwed in. So if you did have something like a really determined woodpecker, I don’t think it would stand a chance with this one. And again, the principle is the same. You know, at the end of the season, you take everything apart and you pop the cocoons in the release chamber, clean the box the following year, and you’ve got a nice clean bee hotel and you’re increasing the population of bees.
Now, this design is really interesting as it’s a brick. It’s a brick with pre-drilled holes, so if you were having an extension on a south facing wall or something like that, you could incorporate this brick into your home. So you have a permanent structure for the bees. Here we have holes drilled of different diameters. So the larger ones for the red mason bees, smaller ones for smaller species. You get some really tiny species of solitary bee. It’s a brick that’s going to be in your home that’s going to last a long time.
So you have a selection of bee hotels, from ones you can make yourself for a few quid, ones you can buy quite cheaply and then serious bee enthusiast’s boxes, to something permanent that everyone should have in their home.