Should Bee Hotels be Built?

What is the latest craze to hit the gardening world: The Bee Hotel? Every garden centre that you visit will have some sort of oversized bird houses that look like something out of a Sci-fi movie. Only these are not bird nesting boxes at all – they are Insect Hotels that are aimed at the environmentally aware.

Who among us would not want to save the insects of this planet? Especially the pollinators that we rely on to pollinate our vegetables and fruit. Due to social media postings we are all aware of the number of Bees and the like that have dropped drastically over the past few years. Unfortunately, Bee Hotel as a concept, has been flaunted as the urban solution to this rising problem.

In fact, Insect Hotels have become more and more popular every day, to the point where things are getting a bit out of hand. There are currently countless Step by Step tutorials along with numerous You Tube Videos showing how one can create not only a Bee or Insect Home but, Multi-story Insect Condominiums that are designed to house a Zoo including Frogs, Spiders, Snails, Millipedes and all other manner of creepy crawlies.

Bee Hotel or Little House of Horrors?

At first glimpse, these Insect Hotels or Condominiums appear to be sheer genius and the ultimate solution for the world’s current, growing Insect catastrophe. Should we then not be running off to the nearest shops to purchase glue guns, wooden planks, pine cones and flower pots? I mean, this is what everyone should be doing not so? 

Well, not so fast…

If you stop for a second, take a step back, dig a little deeper, you will find that there is a dark side to these creepy crawly cities.

Among the collection of websites and blogs that provide step by step instructions on how you can go about constructing your very own Bee Hotel, you will find The Entomologist Lounge. This website is for the serious Entomologists (Wiki: a person who studies or is an expert in the branch of zoology concerned with insects.) and insect enthusiasts among us. If you go through their website you will notice that they draw a very different picture of Insect or Bee Hotels. 

The Entomologist Lounge website provides a stark warning to “would be” builders, that poorly designed Bee Hotels can increase the risk of disease and even parasitism (Wiki: the practice of living as a parasite on or with another animal or organism.). This can threaten the very lives of the creatures that they were originally designed to save, due to the unnatural community living, that these condominiums create. In nature we find that insects and Solitary Bees have habitats that occur in small separate nests.

The densely populated Insect Hotels make for an environment where the inhabitants are susceptible to parasitism which can spread very quickly if it is not managed and or maintained. Moisture and condensation can get trapped inside the Hotel – creating a breeding ground for mould – bringing with it a host of diseases for the Insects we are actually trying to save.

If Not Bee Hotels, What Else Can Be Done?

While the sometimes-towering condominiums are clearly not the answer – the concept to provide a suitable environment for Bees and Insects to thrive – is spot on. Truth be told, the good news is, that there are alternatives to building a colossal Insect Hotel which can be highly effective. This is especially true in relatively natural urban environments.

  • Separate Sanctuaries –

We should stop trying to find one solution to save all, but rather to build separate environments, each specific to each creature’s needs. If one considers that Bee hotels for instance, need to be in full sun and must be dry, whereas Toads on the other hand need humid and partial shade.

  • Build Sustainable Natural Environments –

When planning your garden, plant beneficial plants that provide nectar. This is the most simple and effective way in which you can help to save out pollinators.

TIP: – Create a patch in your garden, plant some Wildflowers. These are sometimes seen as weeds, but you have no idea how much our pollinators love them as their natural source of food.

  • Put The Clippers And Pruning Shears Down –

We hardly give it a second thought when we clean up our gardens after winter for spring.  We don’t realise that we are removing larvae and pupa on the plants that we trim and hack back. If you allow your garden to be, and you are careful to not over clean, you will be providing by far more suitable shelter for these beneficial creepy crawlies than any fancy Insect Hotel you can make.

  • Pesticides, Herbicides And Fungicides –

These should be a very last resort as they can severely harm beneficial organisms (Wiki: In agriculture and gardening, a beneficial organism is any organism that benefits the growing process,) in your garden thereby changing the balance in the ecosystem. Do some research, there are quite literally tons of alternatives out there to make use of instead. Your garden will love you for it.

Build Your Own And Build It Right

When deciding to build your own Bee Hotel it is important for you to source your own material. This will ensure that you have peace of mind in the knowing that your Insect or Bee Hotel is made from all-natural materials that does not contain chemicals like varnish and wood that has been treated with protectant to repel insects. We suggest you make use of recycled or natural materials from your very own garden.

What You Will Need To Build Your Bee Hotel

  • A clean and empty plastic bottle (The Two-litre size is best.)
  • Scissors 
  • Long strand of natural string or wool
  • Hollow bamboo canes to put into the Hotel (These can be purchased at most Garden Centers)
  • Glue Gun and Glue sticks

Create The Compartment For The BambooBee hotel cutting the 2 liter bottle

To create the Hotel’s compartment, measure and cut the bottom and top off the bottle making a cylinder. We will make use of the middle section.

Measuring And Cutting The Bamboo

Measuring-and-cutting-the-bamboo bee hotel articleUsing the plastic bottle section as a guide, measure and cut the bamboo canes, they don’t have to be exactly the same length, I cut one or two a bit shorter than the plastic bottle section. It looks more natural and rustic if they are all different lengths and thicknesses. 

Test To See If You Have Enough Bamboo Cains

Bee hotel cutting all Bamboo to sizeCut all the pieces and lay them on the table until you have enough.

Test-Fitting-the-bamboo-for the bee hotel articleYou can put the Cains into the plastic container to see if you have enough for a tight fit. 

Hollowing out The Bamboo

Cleaning-the-bamboo-core image for the bee hotelDepending on the thickness of the Bamboo, you might need a drill. But in most cases you can take a Chopstick. The Bamboo has a soft core and partitions that you need to hollow out for the bees to gain access. I used a cordless drill at very low speed to drill the ones I had out. there was not much risk of injury as the drill hardly turned, the inside is paper soft.

Packing And Gluing

Packing and Gluing the bamboo bee hotel articleBegin by placing a bead of glue on two places on the bamboo and glue two pieces together. Then glue a third to those two and keep adding the bamboo sticks. Keeping in mind that they have to fit into the plastic tube. When you think you have enough to fit in the tube, place the bunch into the tube and keep adding bamboo sticks. Right up till the very last one that can fir tightly.

Gluing the bamboo to the tube for the bee hotel articlePlace a blob of glue into the gaps between the bamboo sticks and the plastic so that the sticks are glued firmly into place.Gluing the sticks into the tube of the bee hotel

Prepare For Hanging

Threading and tying the string for the bee hotelTo hang the Bee Hotel, thread the string or wool through the cylinder. Tie the ends of the string or wool in a knot at the top so that it can hang against a wall.

an image of the-completed-bee-hotel

You are done!!

Install It CorrectlyHanging the completed Bee-Hotel

Bee Hotels need to be positioned in full sun, facing North East or North. It has to be hung at least a meter off the ground. Make sure there is no vegetation obscuring the entrances to the Bamboo tunnels. It must also be fixed securely to prevent swinging in the wind.

Maintenance And Cleaning

This is the most overlooked part of having a Bee or Insect Hotel. As mentioned earlier, taking care of Insect Hotel is just as important as building one. For example, Bee Hotels should be inspected at the end of summer to remove and clean dead cells. This will prevent mould and mites that would multiply on the dead Bees or larvae. Some experts recommend that one should bring the occupied Insect Hotel into a cool dry area such as a garden shed during winter to protect the wintering inhabitants from the elements. Without appropriate maintenance and clean-up, a once-occupied Insect or Bee Hotel may not attract new visitors for the next season.

Replace When It Is Time

A Bee Hotel can degrade naturally after two or more years due to the material used being untreated. Redoing the Bee Hotel every two years will help to avoid build-up of mould, mites and parasites over time. Be sure to recycle the plastic tube as that should still be fine.

Fun Bee Fact

Honey bees must gather nectar from two million flowers to make 450 grams of honey.