Make your own bee hotel and support bee populations
Bee hotels are a great way to boost the population of local pollinators. They also provide a wonderful focal point to observe the activities of bees. Follow our simple guide and make your own.
Why protect bees?
Bees are probably the most important pollinators of crops and other plants. We rely on bees to pollinate apples, plums, carrots, coffee, cotton and much more. Worryingly, many bee species are in decline, largely because of the loss of feeding and nesting habitats.
What are bee hotels?
Not all bees live in hives. Many bee species nest in tiny spaces ranging from hollow plant stems to holes in deadwood or bare ground.
Bee hotels consist of a number of hollow tubes. They mimic the conditions suitable for bees that nest above ground in stems and holes.
What you need
- 2 litre plastic bottle
- A hacksaw or pair of secateurs
- A wooden fence, shed wall or wooden post
- About 15 metres (16 yards) of bamboo or other pithy stems
- 1 metre of strong
- 2 nails or screws (and metal washers)
- A hammer or screwdriver
Constructing your bee hotel
Your bee hotel must be constructed by an adult. Take extra care when using tools. You must use all safety precautions as recommended by your tool manufacturers.
- Take an empty plastic bottle and cut 15 cm off the bottom to use for your hotel with a pair of scissors. The example diagram uses a 2 litre bottle, but other sizes will work equally well, you just have to adjust the amount of stems used accordingly.
- Carefully make a small hole in the bottom of the half-bottle with the scissors, making sure you point the end of the scissors away from others and all parts of your body. Thread through some strong string as shown.
- Collect about 15 m (16.4 yards) total length of dry hollow or pithy stems. Stems that work well include dead Bamboo, Elder, Raspberry, thistle, dock, Cow Parsley or other hollow or pithy stems. The larger the range of types & diameter of stems, the larger the number of species that will use your hotel.
- Cut up the stems into 15cm (6 inch) lengths using a hacksaw or pair of secateurs, depending on the toughness of the stems.
- Tightly pack the stems into the half bottle. If the stems are too loose birds will destroy the hotel while looking for food. Your bee hotel is now complete!
- Choose where to put your bee hotel. Bees like it to be as sunny as possible, and it helps if the area is sheltered from the wind. Therefore a sunny south-facing fence or wall is ideal. East-facing (sunny in the morning) is the next best thing, and west-facing (sunny in the afternoon) is not too bad. Bee hotels will also do well on masonry or stone walls, but you will need a drill, screws, & rawlplugs to do this.The hotel should be at least 1 metre off the ground so that it is not shaded by vegetation. Putting it at head-height is ideal as it makes it easy to watch the bees using the hotel.
- When you have chosen your spot, fix in two nails or screws level with each other on a horizontal plane a few cm/inches apart. It often helps to hold the bee hotel in place if metal washers are used to create a larger head on the nail or screw.
- Tie the bee hotel in place making sure it is level, or the open end very slightly sloping downwards to drain water away.
Download these instructions: How to make a bee hotel [pdf]
When to install your bee hotel
Ideally the bee hotel should be put in place by mid-March and taken down and stored in an unheated shed or outhouse at the beginning of October to keep it out of the worst of the elements to extend its life-span (this is not essential though). If you take it down for the winter, make sure you remember to put it back up again next spring so that the bees can emerge outside!
- Take part in our Polli:Nation survey to survey bees and other pollinators near you
- Join OPAL to be the first to hear about new activities like this one
Which species will use a bee hotel?
Many bees and beneficial solitary wasps could potentially take up residence in the hotel, but the most likely species are:
Blue Mason BeesRed Mason Bees
In spring and early summer, female Red Mason Bees will often build nests sealed with mud. They have a black head and a bright reddish body. Males are smaller and have a tuft of white hair on their face.
In spring and early summer, Blue Mason Bees will build nests sealed with chewed leaf (green when fresh, fading to black). Females are a dark metallic blue, while males are a shiny metallic green and have more orange-coloured hairs.
Look out for Leaf-cutter Bees, which make their nest cells out of leaves.
These tiny, almost hairless black bees build their nest out of natural polyester, which they create from glands in their abdomen and mouth
A wide variety of beneficial solitary wasps will use bee hotels including crabonid, eumenid, and pemphredonid wasps. They provision the nests with a variety of pest species including caterpillars and greenfly, and use a variety of nest materials.
The bees and wasps that use hotels are not dangerous and do not produce a painful sting. For lots of interesting bee facts and information see the International Bee Research Association website.