Bees are beautiful and they pollinate flowers providing us with fruit and vegetables. Not all bees live in big a big social hive, some bees live alone. These solitary bees like to nest in hollow plant stems and you can make them a ready made nesting space in your garden.
Bee hotel © Steven Falk
Bee hotel © Buglife
What you will need to make a bee hotel
- Hollow plant stems or bamboo canes
- Garden twine or string
- Saw or knife to cut the canes
- A nail or hook to attached the bee hotel to the shed
How to make a bee hotel
- Cut the hollow plant stems into 10-20cm sections.
- Tie a bundle of 15-20 tubes together with garden twine or string.
- Hang the bee hotel in a sunny but sheltered area about 5 feet about the ground. The side of a shed or on a trellis is ideal.
- Observe the bees using the bee hotel in spring. It may take the bees a year or two to find the hotel but fear not – in the meantime spiders and other minibeasts may use the hotel.
Let us know how you get on with your bee hotel by sending us an email
Is a solitary bee using my bee hotel?
You will know if a solitary bee such as a mason bee or leaf-cutter bee is using your bee hotel if the hollow tubes are blocked with a leaf or mud. A female solitary bee will usually use one hollow tube to the exclusion of other females (although that one female may end up using several tubes if she lives long enough ). She will create a series of cells each containing a food parcel of pollen and nectar for the grub. Only a single egg is laid in each cell. The adult solitary bee eventually seals the entrance to the tube with mud or a perfectly sized section of leaf. You may notice some of your garden plants have half moon or full-circle shaped cuttings. These are made by leafcutter bees which cut them using their scissor-like moth parts (mandibles).
How to identify solitary bees.
There are over 200 species of solitary bee in the UK including mining bees that nest in underground burrows and mason and leaf cutter bees that often nest in wood or walls. Most solitary bees are smaller and slimmer than bumblebees and you can tell them from mimicing flies by their long antennae. Most species are attacked by cuckoo-wasps (e.g. ruby-tailed wasps) or cuckoo bees that either replace the solitary bee larva with their own one (like a cuckoo) or have a larva that gradually eats the solitary bee grub as it grows.
Gardens are brilliant places to observe solitary bees such as the Red mason bee and various leaf cutter bees, and also their cuckoos.
For more information on solitary bees visit Bees Wasps Ants Recording Scheme (BWARS) web page on ‘Beginners bees, wasps and ants’. Buglife is pleased by the upsurge in demand for artificial bee nests for gardens. There are a number of commercial varieties available, but why not save some cash and make your own?