How to make a bee hotel
bug. The most common species attracted by these homes are red mason bees, leafcutter bees, and the blue orchard bee, Osmia lignaria. These homes can be a great opportunity for children to learn about the different kinds of bees. Even adults may have a hard time recognizing some species as they can be green, blue or brown and not the traditional black and yellow striped varieties. Solitary wasps are helpful garden predators that may also move in, they will fill their cells with paralysed live prey for their young. These species of bees and wasps are not as likely to sting, making them fun for children to observe.
First, decide on your design. What elements do you want to include — wood blocks or logs, hollow stems and bamboo, or smaller branches tied in bundles? Are you going to cover the front with mesh to keep predators out, or include some mud for the mason bees to use? Do you want to develop a large hotel with multiple nesting options or a simple one for only a few tenants?
Once you’ve decided, it’s time to start drilling. Using a variety of drill bit sizes will allow for different species to set up their nests. Smaller holes should be drilled to a depth of three to four inches while larger holes should be five to six inches. Allow at least a half inch of space between holes and ensure that none of the holes exit the back of the wood; this only creates a wind tunnel.
Use sandpaper to smooth out the entrance if necessary and check that the entire hole is smooth. Splinters will damage the insect’s delicate wings. You can also drill holes through bundles of small twigs and bind them together or use bamboo or other hollow stems as long as one end remains closed. Cut all stems to a length of approximately eight inches. A variety of stems from herbaceous plants such as raspberries, brambles and elder can be used. These should be bundled and placed in an upright position in the hotel with shelter from above.
Now that you have all of your holes drilled you need to create the hotel structure. This requires two solid sides and a back. You will also need to add a roof that overhangs the structure on an angle to block out rain. Kids can paint the blocks if they use acrylic or water based paints which do not have an offensive odour.
Finished structures need to be placed in full sun, facing south or east at a minimum of three feet to no more than eight feet high. Structures can be free standing or hung along a fence, but should be fixed in place with no sway. You can grease the poles to help keep ants and spiders out.
If you are going to build or set up a bee hotel be prepared for the upkeep.
The nest should be kept in a cool, dry place over the winter months. An unheated garage, shed, porch or carport will do. It is the wet that will harm the young bees not the cold, so leave them outdoors, just move them to a sheltered location. Rain and snow can dissolve the mud walls causing rot and death of the larvae. Bring the nests back outside in March and have kids keep tabs on when the insects hatch. Bees will begin emerging by April. Remove any cells that have remained walled up from the previous year at the end of the summer and destroy them. Blocks should be replaced every two years after the bees have emerged in the summer. Bamboo and herbaceous stems should be replaced yearly.