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.
To build your bee hotel, you will need the following:
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.
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.
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.
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.