🐝 What is a Bee Hotel?
It is a human-made object that offers solitary bees a home where they can rest and breed safely. A bee hotel will not attract honey bees. Honeybees require different nesting structures.
A bee hotel is a bee’s permanent home for eleven months of its short life as it develops from an egg through a larvae stage, then as a dormant pupa, and finally emerges as an adult.
To enjoy the hotel and the activity, hang it at eye level or lower if the children want to get involved. Find a dry spot in dappled sunlight, a bright, shaded area or an area that only receives early morning sunlight (not direct sunlight, as that will be too hot). Hang it where you can see it and enjoy it. Take pride in knowing that you are making a valuable contribution to the protection and conservation of our bees.
🐝 What is happening inside the Bee Hotel?
Most pollen and nectar bees gather visiting flowers in the gardens to feed their larvae. This is the main feeding stage of developing bees, as they do not grow more significantly once they emerge from the pupa. Adult bees ingest only small quantities of food.
One can take a close peep at the tunnels to see what’s happening inside. Don’t worry; solitary bees will not come out and attack.
🐝 Where to put your Bee Hotel?
One should not position the bee house in the permanent shade and not in the continuous sun. Solitary bees are cold-blooded and rely on the sun’s heat to warm them up in the morning. It is unlikely to be used if you site your bee hotel in the shade or hidden behind thick vegetation.
One should firmly fix a bee house so that it does not swing or sway in the wind, so you should not hang it from a branch. If possible, find a spot that has some protection from the rain. Endless winter wet, not cold, is their enemy.
🐝 Will any Bee Hotel do?
In light of public concern about sudden bee declines, as reported in the media, many horticultural suppliers are now offering commercially made wooden bee houses (also called condos or bee traps). Sadly many of them are inadequate for several possible reasons:
- Many bee hotels are ornamental rather than functional, designed to appeal to human aesthetics more than being beneficial to solitary bees.
- They offer insufficient protection from wet weather. Rain floods the chambers, drowning the occupants.
- The holes are too large because they are made abroad to cater to species that do not live in our country.
- Tunnels have splinters inside. Bees will avoid those to prevent damage to their wings.
- Tubes have no solid back wall and are only open-ended wind tunnels.
- They contain glass or plastic tubes, which cause condensation and fungus moulds.
- Some bee houses are too large. Many bee species will not live near each other. It is better to spread some smaller bee houses around the garden than to have one big hotel. One should avoid bee houses with dozens of chambers as parasitic insects, and mites easily prey on more significant numbers of nearby solitary bees.
- Some bee hotels are made of plywood, chipboard, particleboard, plastic or cardboard. Those are not suitable.
- Many bee houses are made to hang from a branch or hook and cannot be firmly attached. Bees do not like swinging nests.
We are grateful to the apiculturist’s Marc Carlton and Michael Hickman for the information we have used for this article.