Even though we have several honey bee hives on our property, our strawberries were not getting pollinated. After a bit of research, we learned that strawberries aren’t a favorite of honey bees but they are a favorite of native bees. So, we did what anyone would do, we made some bee hotels.
Why Native Bees Matter
When we were just starting beekeeping, we thought that as long as we had honey bees on our property all our fruit and vegetable plants would get pollinated. We were wrong. There are some flowers that are actually pollinated better by native bees than by honey bees.
Cranberries, cherries, blueberries and many other native fruits were pollinated by native bees long before honey bees were introduced to North America. It’s estimated that 80% of flowering plants are pollinated by native bees … and most of them don’t sting.
For those who would like to start beekeeping farming but have allergic reactions to bee stings, this is very good news. Since native bees don’t need to protect honey stores most of them are extremely docile and don’t sting.
How to Help Native Bees
Planting plants that attract bees is something everyone can do to support all pollinators including native bees.
Learning how to make a bee watering station is a way to help native bees and honey bees. Bees and other pollinators need water just like other animals and it’s much better for them to drink from fresh watering stations than having them hang out at the kiddie pool getting a drink.
Another way to have native bees is to build bee hotels for them. Unlike honey bees, native bees don’t live in hives, and most of them are solitary bees. They make their homes (“nests”) in wood or old bricks and some even make their homes in the ground.
Who Will Occupy a Bee Hotel?
What species take up residence in your bee hotel will depend on where you live. In most areas, red and blue mason bees, leaf cutter bees and solitary wasps will move in. Each species prefers its own size room, so it’s good to make your bee hotel with various sizes or make several bee hotels each one with its own size of rooms.
How to Make a Bee Hotel
There are many things you can make your bee hotel out of, including cardboard tubes, bamboo sticks, hollow stems of plants and untreated wood are a few ideas.
We decided to use bamboo sticks and large tree branches that have been previously cut since that’s what we have on our property.
No matter what you use, there are a few things that all bee hotels need to have. The first thing they need is a roof or to be under some kind of shelter. This will help protect the contents of the rooms from rain. They also need to be about four to six inches wide and have a solid back; only one side should be open.
You will want to replace the bee hotels every couple of years and make sure that they are safe and dry for the winter. The bees will be laying their eggs in the hotel and in order to make sure they do not rot over the winter, it’s best to bring them into a covered area such as a barn for the winter.
Making a Bee Hotel from Bamboo
Bamboo is a great item to use for a bee hotel because they are hollow and come in various sizes. We cut ours into 6-inch lengths and made sure that they were hollow all the way through. Although bamboo is hollow, there are knots every so often that are not hollow. You can either cut around those or drill through them.
Once you have all your bamboo cut, you can tie a string around them or put them in a can, glass jar or wooden box and hang them up. If you are only going to tie a string around them, you will need to cut the bamboo in such a way that each length has one solid end.
Making a Bee Hotel from Wood
You can either purchase wood, use scraps from another project or use wood from trees on your property. The most important thing is that the wood needs to be untreated; if you’re not sure if it has been treated then don’t use it.
Making a bee hotel from wood is super easy as you’re just going to drill holes in it, making sure that you don’t drill all the way through. You will want to be able to hang it so you might want to drill one hole all the way through at the top.
Making bee hotels is a super fun project and something that even the youngest children can help with. Do you make bee hotels? Feel free to share your tips in the comments.