Whether you’re a budding gardener or looking for a way to keep nature-loving kids entertained, building a bee hotel is a great way to attract important insects into your garden.

Who doesn’t love listening to the calming hum of bees buzzing as they bob from flower to flower during the warmer months? These insects are vital to the maintenance of our planet. This is because we rely on them to pollinate a huge chunk of the food we eat, including crops, vegetables and fruit.

Why build a bee hotel?

Building a bee hotel is a great way to help solitary bees. Unlike honeybees and bumblebees, solitary bees live and build their nests alone, usually in tunnels, hollow stems and beetle holes. If you create a ready-made place for them to lay their eggs, it’s highly likely they will come and take up residence there. So, why not lend bees a helping hand and build them a place to stay to encourage them to visit your garden?

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What you'll need

  • A plank of untreated wood, at least 10cm wide
  • A saw, drill and nails
  • Reeds, bamboo canes and hollow stems in a range of diameters
  • A mirror fixing/something to hang the hotel up with

How to build a bee hotel

  1. Cut your plank of wood into five pieces. Three pieces should be the same size – this will form the rectangle frame that will support the roof. Two of these pieces will need to be cut away at a right angle to create a sloping edge to house the roof. For the remaining two pieces, one should be slightly longer than the other as they will form the roof on top at a 90-degree angle. The reeds, bamboo canes and hollow stems will sit inside the frame.
  2. Drill some guide holes for the screws to fit into and assemble the frame.
  3. Next, cut your stems, reeds and canes so that they fit the depth of the frame. You can use a saw or secateurs to do this.
  4. Load the frame with your canes, reeds and stems, packing them in as tightly as possible. If you have extra space, you can always add circular bits of wood with holes drilled in to diversify your bee habitat.
  5. Attach the mirror fixing to the back of the frame. You’ll want to position your bee hotel facing south, in a sunny spot that is sheltered away from any rain.

How to attract bees to your bee hotel

Aside from placing your bee hotel facing south, the best way of attracting bees to your new B&B is by planting lots of bee-friendly wildflowers in your garden. Bluebells, knapweed, hellebore and honeysuckle are all well loved by bees.

Top tip

The holes in your bee hotel should be no more than 12mm. If they're larger than this, they'll be too big for the solitary bees that nest in bee hotels and won't get used.

How to look after your bee hotel

It's really important to keep your bee hotel clean to prevent the build-up of parasites, debris and mould. With no cleaning, these can affect the health of the bees in your garden and even stop bee larvae surviving the winter in your bee hotel.

Take your bee hotel down in October to do a little maintenance. Here are some tips for taking care of it.

  1. Brush off any cobwebs or debris.
  2. Remove the nesting tubes and store them in a shed or other dry, cool area outdoors (it will be too warm in your house).
  3. Clean out the bee hotel housing with boiling water and a stiff brush.
  4. Let the clean housing dry completely before adding new nesting tubes and storing the hotel in the same place as the old tubes.
  5. Put the bee hotel back out in spring, in late March or early April.
  6. Pop the old tubes back outside too, next to your bee hotel, so any emerging bees can fly into the new, clean material.

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