• Alison Murray

Things to do in the garden during lockdown day 22: make a bee hotel

Here's how to make a bee hotel to attract solitary bees. They will lay their eggs inside it and even use it to shelter from the rain. Solitary bees are super pollinators, one red mason bee pollinates as much as 120 worker honey bees so anything we can do to encourage them in our gardens has got to be a good thing.


I've repurposed an old bird box, reroofed it and sawn bamboo so they fit snuggly inside. A plastic bottle, box or drainpipe with one end blocked will do, as long as it is waterproof and has a back to it. I poked out the soft centres of any blocked tubes with a tiny screwdriver. You can use any hollow stem or tube, or even drill holes into a block of wood. The new roof overhangs a bit to keep the rain off the hotel rooms.


Place the bee hotel 1-2m high in a south facing position, south facing if possible, and make sure it is secure and not going to blow about in the wind. Mine is now under the eve's of my summer house (glorified shed!). It is worth replacing the stems every few years so that parasites don't build up in your hotel.


I would be great to see photos of your hotels and even film when the clients turn up.


Here is what goes on inside the hotel. Mason bees, leaf cutter bees and wool carder bees like to nest up high and bamboo hotels make perfect nests. They pop a blob of pollen stuck together with nectar at the end of the hollow tube for the larva to eat, lay an egg, and leave enough space for their offspring to grow, then they plug it up with a partition wall, and repeat all the way along the tube. Depending on the species the bee may cap each tiny nursery with mud, leaves or hairs. The bees lay female eggs at the back and male eggs at the front of the tube, as the male eggs develop more quickly and will hatch first. The larvae spend the summer hidden in the next growing, they then pupate over winter and emerge in the spring ready to mate and repeat their lifecycle.


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