A bee hotel is a collection of hollow stems and wood arranged in a container for solitary bees to nest in.
There are many species of solitary bee, ranging from hairy-footed flower bees to red mason and leafcutter bees. Solitary wasp species will use bee hotels, too.
Different species nest at different times of year but they start emerging from late-February to March, and continue into autumn. Not all species nest in bee hotels but many common species will, if the habitat is provided for them.
The bees don’t mind what it looks like, as long as it’s in dry, especially in winter, and in full sun they’ll be perfectly at home. Replace the hollow stems each year in late spring, once the new adults have emerged.
Check out some of the different styles of bee hotels and ways to use them.
Wood and hollow stems
This hotel comprises a bit of tree bark attached to a wooden frame, with gaps filled by hollow stems. Note the cells in use by leafcutter bees – they have been sealed with pieces of leaf.
A small wooden bee hotel showing some hollow stems occupied and sealed with pieces of leaf by leafcutter bees
Feature bee hotels
This Chelsea Flower Show exhibit is made using a variety of materials including bricks and ivy stems, arranged in circular containers on the side of a wall. Together the containers create a striking focal point
A Chelsea Flower Show feature bee hotel comprising varieties of materials in circular containers on a stylish wall
Bee hotel with green roof
This bee hotel displayed at Hampton Court Palace Flower Show 2011, has a stylish green roof on top. The slight lip on the roof helps to keep the hollow stems dry, which is essential to reduce the risk of infections affecting the eggs and larvae. Sitting atop a post, this can be popped in a sunny border.
A bee hotel of hollow stems packed beneath an overhanging roof planted with sempervivums
Hollow stems en masse
Hundreds of bamboo stems collected together can look fantastic, especially when they have been sealed up by red mason bees. You can create simple wooden frames in all sorts of shapes and sizes to hold the stems, so it’s a good chance to test your creativity.
A mass of aligned hollow bamboo stems, some sealed by red mason bees
Bee hotel posts
These stylish bee hotels on posts are made using a variety of materials, and can be found at the London Wetland Centre in Barnes. They’re surrounded with lots of plants that will provide pollen and nectar, so the bees needn’t travel far.
Posts supporting a variety of bee hotels, amongst flowering plants
Pallets and roof tiles
This bug shelter has endless possibilities for bees and other insects. Many of the materials are things you might have lying around or can gather from the garden, including old tiles, twiggy material and logs with holes drilled in.
Bee and bug shelter made from old bricks, tiles and wood, plus twigs and fir cones
Bee hotel in dry-stone wall
This sleek bee hotel is incorporated into a stylish dry-stone wall with sedum and sempervivum planting. Different hole sizes help to attract species with varying requirements.
Wooden bee hotel inserts in a dry stone wall topped with sempervivums
Box filled with wood
This picture frame-style bee hotel is filled with wood and other materials making the perfect home for a variety of bee species. Holes have been drilled into the end of old logs, while the gaps between logs have been filled with a variety of hollow stems from plants like fennel and sunflowers.
Bee hotel made in a wooden box from branches with holes drilled into their ends, packed around with hollow stems
Bee hotel with slate roof
For a touch of class, add a slate roof to your bee hotel, to protect the contents from rain. As it sits on a post, this bee hotel is easy to site in sunny beds and borders.
A slate-roofed bee hotel on a post
Siting your bee hotels
When siting your bee hotels, make sure they’re placed in direct sun and that the ‘burrows’ run horizontally.