There are many different types of bees, and the solitary bee is probably the friendliest helper in the garden. They’re different to honey bees although they look so similar you might not notice a difference.
Solitary bees don’t build a hive, they live alone. They’re great helpers in the garden because they help to pollinate flowers and they don’t sting. Their favourite place to nest is in little holes, they bring pollen and nectar to their young to feed them.
Making a bee hotel is wonderful way to keep children busy in the garden, and this is a fun way to help them do it, while explaining the importance of having bees in the garden. Encourage them, daily, to go and check if there are any bees using the hotel - they’ll love seeing their ‘hotel’ being inhabited.
What you will need to build a bee hotel:
- 7 pieces of marine plywood (to make a box 15cm in depth, 20x30cm width and height), drilled together, or pinned together with panel pins
- Small logs
- Any offcuts of wood
- Bamboo canes (try get bamboo cane fencing from garden centre, and pull it apart)
- Plant to mention: Marigolds, gazania, lavender, salvia, plectranthus, Hibiscus, osteospermum, alyssum, and portulaca
- Some clay and paint to make a bee (optional)
- Duct tape for the roof
- Hinges and screws
- Sign for bee hotel/rates
Step one: Building the box
Using the panel pins, secure the panels together to form a box shape. Remember to leave two panels for the roof. It is best to have one set of hands holding everything steady and the other set of hands doing the hammering.
Step two: Making the roof
Angle the pieces of wood for the roof, in an A-frame shape and use the duct tape to keep the two pieces together. Use two pieces of duct tape, if necessary. Secure the A-frame shaped roof to the box with some more duct tape for a temporary fix, or screw in some hinges.
Step three: Creating hotel “rooms” for the bees
Cut pieces of wood and bamboo to the same depth as the box. If you sourced bamboo from bamboo cane fencing, remove the bamboo canes from the wire fencing. Drill holes of different depths and thicknesses into the logs and wood pieces (anything between 2mm and 10mm drill bit will work).
Ensure the holes are smooth and clean - remove any sharp pieces left behind and sand it down lightly. Fill the box with the wood and bamboo pieces that have been drilled and cut to size - make sure they’re evenly distributed, well compacted and secure.
Step four: Location, location, location!
Place the hotel in a sunny spot in the garden, on a southern-facing wall, 1m above the ground. Solitary bees love having a variety of flowers to choose from, so plants lots of marigolds, gazania, lavender, salvia, plectranthus, hibiscus, osteospermum, alyssum, and portulaca near the area.
Not only are you feeding bees, you’re adding colour and delight to your garden. You can then add a few homely touches to your hotel - make a clay bee, paint it, paint the roof red if you like, and make a sign with your hotel’s name (“Daniel’s Bee Hotel”, for example).
You’ll see your bee hotel being used if there are little mud tunnels or door over the openings drilled into the wood and bamboo. Be sure not to disturb the bees and their nests because that’s where they keep their babies and their eggs.