FSC | Field Studies Council

Field Studies Council: Bringing Environmental Understanding to All

Build Your Own Bee Hotel

The UK has 267 species of bees. Although most people would recognise honey bees or bumble bees, more than 90% of the UK’s bee species are the less familiar solitary bees.

Solitary bees do not live in colonies, produce honey or have a queen.  They are non-aggressive and don’t form swarms.  Many of them don’t look very ‘bee-like’ either – they can vary in size, colour and pattern, with many being small and relatively inconspicuous. Solitary bees are excellent pollinators – up to 100 times better than honey bees. 

Each female bee will lay 20 to 30 eggs. When she finds a suitable nest site, she creates a series of cells for her eggs, and provisions each cell with a ball of pollen and nectar for the developing larvae to feed one. Depending on the species, the end of the tube is sealed with soil, mud or leaves.

Megachile CombinedA Solitary Bee (Megachile) Nest

Solitary bees either nest in excavated burrows (mining bees) or in hollow tubes or holes (cavity nesting bees). This is where a bee hotel can really help! There are many different ways of making a bee hotel. Our bee hotel at Preston Montford Field centre used to be the biggest in the country – it’s a five star, luxury hotel! You can see the variety of different materials used here, including some blocks of oasis foam for the mining bees to dig out, and ready provided tubes for the cavity nesting bees.

IMG_0747_M (3)
Preston Montford's Bee Hotel 

Building A Bee Hotel

The simplest way to make a bee hotel is to gather a selection of dry hollow tubes such as bamboo canes and plant stems (etc.) and mount them in frame or container. Be inventive! You could use a plastic water bottle with the top cut off, an old plant pot or whatever you have to hand. 

If you have some spare wood to hand or the stump of a tree, you can drill holes in it (about 1cm in diameter) for the bees to use. We even used an old wooden lipstick stand - shown in the photo below.

Lipstick Stand HotelA Lipstick Stand Bee Hotel 

Also remember to fix the bee hotel at least one metre off the ground, to a south-facing wall or alternative sunny location that’s protected from the strong winds. 

Ideally you could also provide some food for your bees by planting wildlife-friendly flowers and plants nearby – for advice on what bee-friendly things you can grow, click here.

A Bamboo Bee Hotel at FSC Head Office 

More Information:
Identify garden bumblebees and solitary bees with the FSC Bees Identification Chart for just £3.

Learn which flowers bees love on a Wild Flower Identication Course

We also have a wide range of courses on other insects - FSC Other Invetebrates Courses


Wednesday, June 28, 2017