Bees do a lot of work, why not let them have a free stay at your hotel for the weekend? Every gardener knows bees are their friends. These great pollinators do so much for us, and frankly, we need them. Creating a bee hotel for our garden is the new gardening craze.
What is a Bee hotel?
A bee hotel is a small structure that has drilled holes, or hollow tubes providing bees a place to rest their wings temporarily. Bees leave after they lay eggs, in search for a new place to chill out. Once the babies are born they too leave the nest, and so your guests really are there short term.
Unlike a hive where they live as a group, bee hotels attract mason bees and other species that live solitary lives. Solitary bees don’t sting. They aren’t protecting anything which means they are more docile and easy to have as guests. This also means there will be no honey. They aren’t there for more than a few days. This is a bee hotel, not a hive.
Some of these hotels, however, are attracting the wrong crowd. Avoid hornets and termites taking up space in your hotel and provide a great vacation spot for much-needed bees with these great tips!
How to Make a Bee Hotel
There are so many different ways to build your bee hotel. The simplest form is to use an old carton of milk, plastic soda bottle or a used can and place rolled paper, paper straws or bamboo sticks into it.
And you are done. Yes, these are simple and functional.
However DIYers tend to like building and so if you are interested in a longer project, grab some scrap wood and start by building a birdhouse type structure. Make sure your wood is smooth and free from splinters. Use only non-treated wood.
Your home must have a roof of sorts to protect the bees from wind and rain. Metal or wood roofing material will work great. Don’t forget backing. This will give your hotel a sturdy feel, and also provide more weather protection.
Create multiple sizes of “rooms” by providing the paper straw in one side, drilled holes in a block of wood on another side. Thick cardboard is a great material to make different rooms and can be rolled or bent in many different ways.
You can use nesting material such as yarn, pinecones, leaves, straw or bark to fill in open areas. The nesting area should be smaller than the hotel rooms. Think of this as your lounge area of your hotel.
Place your hotel facing south or southeast, away from tree branches of plants that might block the entrances.
Before you run out to make your hotel, learn what not to do, to keep unwanted guests out of your hotel and make your bee guests relaxed.
1- Don’t make your hotel the Venetian Resort
Small hotels are always better than large ones. If you want a lot of bee guests, consider placing multiple small hotels on your property. Large ones attract bugs you don’t want and retire more maintenance.
2- Don’t place your bee hotel below 3 feet
The higher the better. This also helps ward off unwanted guests and allows only flyers to stay at your hotel. Make sure your hotel is sturdy though and won’t sway with the wind. Tying your hotel to a tree limb will not meet this standard.
3- Don’t spray pesticides
This is an obvious one but many homeowners spray their lawns and then are surprised their bee hotels were affected. If you must spray do it when bees are not active- after dusk, or before dawn. Be aware of the wind and spray away from the hotel.
4- Don’t leave your hotel out all year
Hotels should be brought out in early spring just in time for mating season and left out until the fall. You can check your bee hotel to see if there is any larvae that haven’t eaten through their pollen provisions to leave the hotel. Once the hotel is empty you need to maintain it…which leads me to #5.
5- Don’t run a Motel 6
Cleaning your hotel is an annual requirement. Around October, remove the tubing that has larvae debris or mud. Create new tubes or holes, for the coming spring. You can check your hotel mid-summer and remove any dirty tubes and replace them, but this is not required and it is best to leave the hotel alone. Put your hotel out the following March.
6- Don’t forget to protect your guests
Woodpeckers or other predators could try to ruin a relaxing weekend for your bees. If this is the case, add a wire mesh sheet in front of the entrances so bees can fly in, but large birds can’t. In some areas this is completely optional.
Providing a place for your bees to enjoy a quick retreat, is not only helping your environment but also helping your garden grow. If you aren’t ready for the plunge to own a honey-making hive, try a small bee hotel and see what a difference it makes in your garden this year!