Bees are wonderful creatures, a vital part of our ecosystem and the key to maintaining balance in the natural world. Unfortunately, continued human expansion is removing more green space every year and bee populations are declining. Thankfully, you can do something simple to help, by building your own bee hotel in your garden.
When we talk about bees, most people immediately think of bumblebees or honeybees but very rarely do solitary bees get a mention. They are just as important as colony bees and need just as much support. A bee hotel can provide nesting space for dozens of solitary bees and they are super simple to make.
If you don’t fancy making one yourself check out our list of the best bug hotels for some ready-made options.
What You Will Need
To build your own bee hotel, you will need the following:
- a sturdy untreated wooden plank, at least 10cm wide
- backing board
- bamboo canes, hollow plant stems and reeds (different diameters)
- a hook such as a picture or mirror wall fixing
For the wood plank, choose hardwood as they are longer lasting and will fare better in harsh weather. Go to your local hardware store or timber yard to source your wood plank.
Location Is Key
Before you start building, you need to decide on the best spot for your bee hotel. The ideal location should be sheltered and shaded. During the summer, a structure exposed to direct sunlight will quickly overheat and kill the bees. Over the winter months, the structure needs to be sheltered from hard wind, rain and snow.
Choose a corner of your garden that is well sheltered and away from the normal daily activity so the insects will not be disturbed. If you have a birdbath nearby, even better, as bees need a source of clean water close to their nest.
Finally, there should be areas nearby with lots of plants and flowers. You can provide these by planting a few easy-to-manage flowers such as lavender, poppy, roses and sunflowers. Try to plant species that have different flowering seasons. This will ensure the bees have a nearby source of nectar and pollen all year round.
How To Build Your Bee Hotel
This process can be as simple or as elaborate as you want. For a basic bee hotel, you will not need any more materials than those listed above. If you want to make a larger structure to provide shelter for more bees or even for other wildlife, you will need to adjust your materials accordingly.
- The first step is to cut your plank into 5 pieces. The first 3 pieces should be the same length as they will become the support structure for the roof. Of these 3 pieces, 2 need to be cut with a 45° angle to create a sloping edge for the roof to rest on. The final 2 pieces need to be cut with one piece slightly longer than the other, to create a 90° join for the middle of the roof.
- Lay out your wood pieces and mark where you need to place nails. Drill guide holes on your marks for the screws to fit into. Assemble the frame and place and inspect the stability. Use nails to strengthen any loose joins. The final stage for the frame is to cut your backing board to size and fit it to the back of the wood structure to form a solid back wall.
- Collect your bamboo canes and hollow stems, marking where you need to cut for them to fit the depth of your wooden frame. Garden secateurs should be fine or a small handsaw.
- Arrange your bamboo canes, hollow stems and reeds into the frame as tightly as you can fit. For larger structures, you can tie stems and canes together with twine or string to create cylinders, then fit the cylinders into the frame. Different bee species need different diameters for their nests, so be sure to use a variety of stems of canes.
- Once your structure is complete, attach a wall hanging to the back of the frame so you secure the bee hotel to a sturdy tree or garden fence panel.
- A south facing position is best, but ensure it is sheltered from sun and rain.
If you are building a more substantial structure to attract more diverse wildlife, there are a few other materials you may want to include. Construction bricks with boreholes make ideal nest sites for larger insects.
You can create a larger space by using longer wood planks and using wood panels to create shelving or ‘levels’ within the hotel. At the base, why not build a hedgehog hide? To do this, construct 3 sturdy walls, a roof and an opening at the front that is slightly larger than a hedgehog. Place dry straw and leaf litter in the box to provide a warm, dry spot for hedgehogs to rest during the day.
To protect your bee hotel guests from predators like birds, you can cover the front with mesh. Be sure to choose a mesh that is large enough for insects to climb through, but not large enough for birds to get their beaks through.
For a truly ‘green’ bee hotel, you can add moss or turf to the roof of your structure.