How to make a bee hotel
Unlike the familiar bumblebee, mason bees are solitary and the female spends most of her life searching for hollow stems in which to lay her eggs. If you can provide a suitable home, she’ll come to you.
You will need:
- An untreated wooden plank, at least 10cm wide
- Plenty of hollow stems such as bramble, hogweed, reed or bamboo. You’ll need a wide range of diameters including the bees preferred 3-5mm
- Saw, drill, screws and secateurs
- A mirror fixing to hang the finished nest up.
Building your bee hotel:
- Cut the plank into four to make a rectangular frame.
- Drill guide holes for the screws (to stop the wood splitting) and assemble the frame.
- Snip your stems into plank-width lengths, discarding any bent or knobbly ones. It’s a good idea to include some really big stems (cut with a fine saw), even though they’re no use to the bees; they speed up the assembly stage, look attractive and help shelter lacewings and ladybirds over winter.
- Lay your frame on a tilted surface and carefully pack it with stems. Only as you add the final few does the whole thing suddenly lock solid.
If you can make a bee hotel, the female mason bee will come to you!
Hanging your bee mansion:
Hang your hotel on a sunny wall, sheltered from rain, and wait for the bees to investigate in spring.
The female mason bee will select a stem and lay an egg inside with a store of pollen for the grub to eat when it hatches. Then she’ll seal up the cell with a plug of mud, and start again. A stem can end up with several cells and the young bees will emerge next year.