Build a Bee Hotel

Photo: Arthur Chapman

Build a Bee Hotel

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Unlike birds, bees don’t need you to get out your hammer and saw and spend an afternoon in the shed. Bee hotels are much easier to make than bird houses. Native Australian bees are mostly solitary and build their nests in existing environments like hollow logs, holes in trees, burrows in the ground and hollows in dead plants. They will even set up house in cracks in building walls.

Before you construct your bee hotel, you should consider the best location. Protection from the elements is important – bees are unlikely to spend the whole day in searing sun or being pelted by wind and rain. They will naturally seek a sheltered position so find a suitable spot in your garden before you get started. Although bees naturally nest in low areas, it’s a good idea to elevate your hotel at least one metre off the ground but not too high – between knee and eye level is a good guide.

The best hotels are close to bars, restaurants and natural attractions and bee hotels are no exception. They will need a food source within reasonable flying distance, so planting a variety of pollen-rich plants that flower at different times of the year is a good start. A water source and a wild area that resembles natural bush, with leaf litter, twigs and rotting material will also make the bees feel right at home

For all native wildlife, a pesticide free environment means their food sources are healthy and they can give their young the best chance for survival. Bees will instinctively avoid gardens with chemicals in the soil and on plants, so your hotel may not be so popular if you haven’t tried organic methods instead.

So, what sort of hotels do bees like to stay in? Nesting habitats made from natural materials will be the most popular. Bees range in size so creating different diameter holes will cater for everyone.

Air Bee n Bee

  • If you have tree stumps or logs, drilling holes in them is all you need to do. No logs? Any offcuts of timber will do, but make sure they have not been chemically treated. Drill the holes so the entrance faces sideways, not straight up.
  • Small nests on the ground can be easily constructed with twigs, bark and wire to hold them together. Locate them out of the way so they are not destroyed by birds or people or your dog trampling all over them.
  • Lengths of bamboo are an excellent choice, as the entrance is just the right size for bees. Seal one end so they feel safe enough to lay eggs. Around 15 to 20cm long is perfect.
  • Holes poked into lumps of builders clay then left to dry out
  • Cement breezeblocks and bricks with holes in them are very simple hotels as long as one side is sealed – use a natural material like clay, mud or even mulch or dead leaves. Not superglue.
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Don’t be tempted to use cardboard or chipboard as they won’t last through wet weather and bees will not be happy when their homes fall apart. You will get a very bad review on Trip Advisor.

Solitary native bees are not completely anti-social. They will live alongside other bees as long as they have their own rooms so creating a larger hotel is a great idea. A wooden box can be filled with a variety of materials like bamboo stems, twigs and leaves. The box should be placed on its side, in a sheltered area and you might want to add a small ledge for the bees to land on – they enjoy having a verandah. Tilting the box down slightly will help drain away any rain that finds its way in and keep the bees nice and dry.

Once your hotel is up and running, it shouldn’t take long before your first guests arrive. Watch them from a safe distance and enjoy your new backyard buddies!

Be a backyard buddy

It’s easy. All you have to do is care… and take a few simple steps. Backyard Buddies are the native plants and animals that share our urban areas, waterways, backyards and parks.  Backyard Buddies are also the people who value native wildlife and want to protect it.

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