Updated: May 24
Bee hotels are becoming increasingly popular garden addition among gardeners, environmentally conscious and general public trying to help pollinators. Good Bee hotels are designed to mimic natural nesting sites of solitary bees such mason bee, leafcutter bee but also many types of other flying insect.
Solitary bees nest in tube holes found in dead wood or in case of mason bee sand dunes and in loose wall masonry. They collect pollen that is stacked up in the chamber, lay egg and seal the chamber with mud or chewed up leaf.
The biggest mistake people make (including myself many years ago) is to confuse and mix bee and bug hotel. As a result a large range of unsuitable products flooded the market, which in reality do more damage than good.
Bug hotels offer habitat for creepy crawlies as woodlice, earwig and spiders many of which predate on the very bees you want to help out. Bug hotels mimic completely different habitat and are made of pine cones, hay, wood logs and other materials, best located on ground in shady spot.
Bee hotels need to be raised of the ground by 1-1.5m and located on full sun, made from solid structure like timber with drilled holes.
Bad bee hotel
- Cheap bee hotels made from thin bamboo sticks. They don`t offer much insulation during winter and don`t last long
- Too shallow so generally unsuitable for nesting
- Made with pine cones and other materials that attract predators and parasites
- Treated or painted timber containing toxins and heavy metals
Good bee hotel
- Good quality, solid structure and materials offering good insulation
- Deep structure and holes around 10 cm
- No cones, hay, twigs or thin bamboo sticks
- Natural materials, no paint or chemical treatment
- Wide range of hole sizes
So if you are looking for good quality bee hotel check out our Handmade Rustic Bee Hotels made from natural larch. Alternatively if you have some basic DIY skills, free time and tools here is how you can make one:
To make bee hotel
Material: logs or untreated timber, at least 10cm deep. Hardwood is more expensive but will last ages. You can use thick bamboo sticks. Do NOT use cones, hay, open plastic tubes or twigs as they will only attract bee predators and parasites.
Holes: drill various size holes between 2-10 mm to attract wide variety of native bees and hoverflies. Holes need to have back walls so do not drill through as this will make the hole unsuitable and bees won`t use it.
Roof: make a roof to shelter the hotel from rain, depending on size overhang by 3-5 cm on front and sides.
Size: many insect hotels are made huge with pallets and large amount of material. This will only promote spread of parasites. Better to use more but smaller size hotels placed away from each other. Make Bee hotel from 10x10 cm (4x4 inch) to 40x40 cm (15x15 inch) but not larger.
Location: 1-1.5m off the ground on south or west facing wall. Make sure no plants or obstructions are in the fly path to/from the bee hotel.
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