Your yard is already home to insects galore, so why not give bees a proper place to rest their wings? Bee hotels are a great way to attract pollinators to your family’s flower or vegetable garden.
The truth is that many species of bees are solitary – they do not live in hives but instead construct their own nest. The main reason for this is because in these species every female is fertile and this would not make for comfortable communal living in a hive.
With bee populations declining to worrying levels, there has been a call for citizens to play their part by building bee hotels, man-made contraptions that act as a resting place for solitary pollinator bees, who may not produce honey, but still play a vital role in the growth of fruits and vegetables, plants and flowers.
In cold climates, an insect hotel is a hibernation place for insects. In the summer it is a nesting place. The more insects you attract the greater likelihood that insect pollination of fruit and vegetables will take place on your patch.
There is no standard design for an insect hotel. Just design with your available materials — preferably recycled and natural materials so the insects are familiar with the smell and texture and the environment is healthy for them. Be creative with the materials you have.
If you want to make a hanging insect hotel you will need to make a wooden box. For this you can use a pallet wood, there is always plenty around.
Once you have a box, with back wall blocked, start filling it with the materials you have collected, try to make lots of segments and compartments, different in size and shape, each compartment can be stuffed with natural materials so variety of insects can enjoy it.
Drill few holes in the wood pieces, use bamboo canes, they naturally have holes in, or dried sticks bundled loosely, so insects can travel inside them, this will provide somewhere for insects to lay eggs or to hibernate in. Secure elements with the nails, string or wire so it stays in place, hang it in the garden, and wait for your guests.
Find a sheltered spot, with the opening facing the sun in cool climates and facing the morning sun in the tropics and sub-tropics. It is important that you give the hotel a roof against rain so that the wood and reeds stay dry — especially because bees are searching for dry spots. Did you know, bees work harder just before it’s going to rain?
With bee hotels, if you build the nest box, they might come. They might not. Or they might come next year.
Hotels for bees require regular maintenance. Many people put up the nest box, see activity around it and think things are fine. Once you have made a bee house, you should not simply site your bee house and forget it. You may end up with unoccupied cells, winter mortality of larvae due to fungus moulds, and the spread of parasites.
Besides insect hotels you can also plant attractive bee garden with additional flowers. Some specific examples of native bee foods are anise, stonecrop, monarda, catnip, queens and loosestrife herb.
Have you made any sort of bee home for your growing space? We’d love to hear if insect homes actually work? Or if you decide to make your own bee hotel, we’d love to hear how it works out and do send us pictures if you build one!