With bee populations declining, a bee hotel can provide all-year-round safe and secure accommodation for bees
An expanded and updated version of this story is available here.
Bee populations continue to decline worldwide. There are many, interacting reasons. These include climate change, intensive farming, land conversion to housing, reduced food sources, exposure to agrochemicals, disease, parasites and invasive species. There’s not a lot the ordinary nature-lover can do about these.
However, another reason is the decreased availability of nesting places. And we can do something about this, by building a bee hotel.
What types of bees am I trying to attract?
When we think of bees we generally think of honeybees living in hives. But there are hundreds of species of wild bees. These are called ‘solitary bees’ because they make individual nest cells for their larvae.
Some of these bees nest in holes in the ground or in sandy banks. Others use the hollow stems of dead plants, or tunnels previously bored into dead wood by beetles. They do not swarm, nor live in hives. Solitary bees are harmless. They do not have painful stings like honey bees.
They collect nectar and pollen from flowers just like honeybees, and are vital for pollination.
A bee hotel can provide safe and secure all-year-round accommodation for these wild, solitary bees.
Prepare the materials
I am going to make a bee hotel from old pallets. These are generally available for free. I had to do a bit of searching but eventually found a pallet supplier locally who was only to happy to get rid of four old and broken pallets.
Construct the frame
A couple of them were really in a bad state, so I found some old planks and repaired them. Then it’s a simple matter of piling up a few on top of each other.
Prepare the bedrooms
I picked up some logs from the local forest and cut them into more manageable sizes. I then drilled holes of varying size and depth into them. These will act as nest cavities for the bees.
Also from the forest, I collected various smaller branches and twigs and cut them to size to fit into the spaces between the pallets. I also found some old bamboo canes which I bound together. And stuffed some dried grass into other cavities.
Add the roof
You need to keep the hotel reasonably dry and waterproof. In my case I added a layer of old tiles on the top.
Ready for occupation
The ideal location would be south-facing, maybe at the bottom of your garden. If you are able to grow lots of wild flowers loved by bees in the immediate vicinity of your bee hotel, so much the better. This will ensure they have a nearby food supply.
I also hope that the bee hotel will attract other insects too. For example, in the winter months it could prove useful for hibernating butterflies, ladybirds and other beetles.
Making a bee hotel might be a great winter project for you and the children, in preparation for the coming spring.
If you want to know more about how to make your garden attractive to wildlife, here is an excellent book:
I love this idea!! Being ex-growers we know how important bees are in a yearly crop!! Especially crucial with a specific mite that is destroying beehives. Though this may have been eradicated by now as I am not currently up to date with the horticultural news any longer.
I believe the mite is still active in Europe Suzanne. It is good to see restrictions coming into play on the use of herbicides and insecticides, though I fear it might be too late.
Yes you could be right! Unfortunately!!
Denzil, I think it is wonderful that you took the time to construct this, and the time to write very clear instructions. The bee in your last shot looks like he’s enjoying his new digs. The apple orchards keep bee hives around, and I’m always struck by how non-aggressive they are, but we don’t give enough thought to the wild ones.
Is there any reason for concern, that wood-boring bees might also bore into the wood of a house? Or is a coat of paint sufficient to discourage that?
I have to admit that I don’t know anything about potential damage to houses by wood-boring (Carpenter) bees Robert, so can’t advise you. Glad you found the post interesting.
I’m also glad you mentioned that they’re harmless, and people don’t need to panic and swat them. I never have a problem with bees, unless I inadvertently step on the ground-dwelling kind, when cutting the grass.
I also hadn’t thought of providing a winter home for ladybugs, which we’re always glad to see.
5 star luxury for bees. 🙂 🙂 Well done for being so resourceful, Denzil.
Thanks Jo. What I forgot to mention is that the older pallets (the ones I found and used) are very heavy, and I did my back in moving them in and out of the car boot by myself! Definitely a job for two people, not one.
That’s not much of a reward 🙁
Very nice project it is a great idea.
Love this idea! I live in an apartment complex so I don’t have the conditions to set up such a bee hotel. I do have a small garden where bees – though their numbers have diminished over the years – visit my flowering plants.
Where I used to live I also drilled holes in a small piece of wood and attached it to a wall; I even had insects using that as a home. I don’t know if that appeals to you in your garden Rosaliene. You can also buy specially made small bee hotels.
This is such a wonderful project, Denzil, something I would never have thought of. Reusing, recycling, benefiting bees, people, the environment, and very cool looking too. I love the rustic look. Well done all around.
Thanks Sharon. Every little helps, I hope.
I think so.
You made every gardener smile with this post. May your hotel reach full occupancy with tired travelers and great reviews. 🙂
I am certainly hoping for good reviews on Trip Advisor Judy
oh wow this is brilliant. I was thinking of buying one, but this just looks much more fun to do. Plenty of pallets out here in Portugal, if only I could find a way to get them back to England!! I’ll ponder ideas 🙂
I’m sure England has plenty of pallets too Becky! Another possibility is to use just one, cut it in half and stack both bits on top of each other to create a much smaller one.
Good thought . . . . . and yes when we get back I will have to go foraging to see what I can find.
I have also been thinking of making one, but I didn’t want to attract the “wrong kind” of bug, meaning the blood-sucking types or yellow jackets.
Yes that is a problem Lisa but these wrong bugs have also got to like nesting in wooden tubes. Otherwise it won’t attract them.
Hey I see from your profile that you love books. Have you seen my other blog? thebookowl.com ?
Thanks, Denzil. I haven’t. I will check it out. Thank you for the link.
Wonderful the more we can do to help these amazing bees the better.. I have a bug house an we were so pleased to have a wild bees nest between our sheds in the allotment last year.. xxx 🙂
It’s a wonderful feeling isn’t it Sue to get up close to nature, especially in a garden or allotment. I am sure your bees can find plenty of pollen and nectar in your locality!
What a great idea. I hope your hotel is soon full of happy new inhabitants.
It would be great, for sure!
It’s the bee’s knees!
I was going to call it an AirBeeNBee
This is such a sweet idea!
Thanks Noelle. Especially if they make some honey for me! 🙂
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Definitely a five star rating for this hotel Denzil. It sounds like you had fun constructing it too – hope your back has recovered!
To be honest Theresa, it put my back seriously out and I had to have physiotherapy to restore it! I do not recommend trying to lift and manouevre wooden pallets into a car single-handedly!
Oh dear, sorry to hear it was that bad and doubtless expensive to put right. Let’s hope the bees properly appreciate your efforts and repay you for your efforts with full occupancy! Ours will be making do with ready-made shop-bought homes, probably made of ticky-tacky that all look just the same!
I am thinking of charging them rent to cover my medical expenses Theresa
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