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.
In this No Fuss video guide, BBC Gardeners' World Magazine wildlife expert, Kate Bradbury, demonstrates some of the different types of bee hotel 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:
More on bees and bee hotels:
Find nine ideas for bee hotels, below.
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.
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
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.
More like this
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.
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.
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 hotel in dry-stone wall
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 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.