Making your own bee hotel or bee house is great fun and really easy to do. There are no strict rules as you’ll see, so you can create whatever you like in any size you like. There’s only one consideration, and it is an important one – you need to site the bee hotel on a wall or fence that points roughly south or east.
If you don’t have a compass, don’t worry. All you need to do is observe where the sun falls early in the morning. That’s the spot where bee homes will work.
They need the sun for the eggs to hatch in the summer. I’ve tried this in shady spots and it does not attract the bees- didn’t get a single one taking up residence. Clearly they know what the best site for a bee home is!
By the way, the information on this page applies to ANY country. Bees the world over have very similar requirements, so don’t think this only applies to the UK. It doesn’t! Later on in another page, I’ll discuss commercially bought houses for the USA and UK.
Bee Hotel Examples
The picture on the right here shows some of my bee hotels hanging on a fence panel in my garden. The bottom 2 were purchased items, the top one is one of my self-made bee homes in the garden.
All 3 bee houses pictured here have been occupied by various bees over time and the type of house seems to affect the types of bee that they attract, at least in my garden.
So I’ll run through the different types, my results and some ideas for making successful bee hotels.
Making a Bee Hotel
OK, the first method of making a bee hotel is probably the simplest one, so long as you have access to an electric drill and drill bits of various sizes. Fear not, I’m not about to describe some complex building project. This really IS easy.
Looking at the photograph above right, you see the bee hotel that’s at the top? That’s one of the easiest to make so here’s how I did that.
What we’re looking to do here is create a series of holes in some wood. That’s it!
Now I happen to have had several pieces of 100mm x 50mm (4″ x 2″) wood in my shed that I used for this, but any size will generally work so long as it has a depth (front to back of at least 50mm (2″) and preferably more if you can manage it as some bees like to have at least 100mm (4″) or more.
You’ll see from the photo that it is just a series of different sized holes that were made with an electric drill using a variety of drill bit sizes. An ideal range is around 4mm to 10mm (1/8″ to 3/8″).
Why different drill bit sizes? Different bee species are different sizes and therefore prefer particular sized holes. It’s that simple. So this type of bee home will attract a range of different bee species. Some will look like wasps or even flies (as I subsequently discovered) but truly were bees once I’d identified what they were.
So I was successful in attracting the most diversity with this bee hotel when compared to many of the commercially bought bee hotels. I think principally because many of the hole sizes were in a narrower range. It’s difficult to see in this photo, but most of the holes had been ocuppied at one point or another. In some holes it’s more evident because you can see the remains of the hole dug by the emerging bees through the mud walls made by the parent.
There’s only a couple of things I want to to add that would make this simple bee hotel more successful. I drilled the holes at a slight upward angle. My thinking was that it would stop any rain that fell on the holes from filling them up with water – it wouldn’t get further than the entrance.
The dotted lines shown here on the right are roughly representative. It doesn’t need to be accurate.
Make sure the wood is not painted or treated with preservative. This will either put bees off or may kill the larvae.
That’s about it really. You may have noticed in the top photograph that I put a little sloping roof on the top of the home, just to further help rain stay away from the holes. Not essential, nature generally doesn’t provide umbrellas when bees make homes in the wild of course!
There’s no other measurements here other than the rough guide above. You can make it as tall or as short as you want or according to the wood you may have available.
Using Bamboo Canes to Make a Bee Hotel
Another popular method of making a bee hotel is to use bamboo cut up into short lengths of around 100mm to 200mm (4″ to 8″) which are then all bundled together in some sort of housing or enclosure. You can get bamboo canes or stakes from your local garden centre which are ideal. They usually taper, so you’ll get a variety of hole sizes when cutting or sawing the canes to length.
I do find that bamboo tends to work better for attracting the bigger solitary bees. I’ve been very successful in attracting leaf-cutter bees for a number of years now. As I’m writing this I’m looking forward to seeing another brood of bees emerging in a few months time.
Really, the bamboo is the only important part of this type of house. So don’t overthink this. All you need to do is bundle the bamboo lengths together somehow. How you do that is almost irrelevant. Again you can make this as small or as big as you want. The bigger you make it, the more impressive the display of bees you’ll likely get.
I’ve found a couple of sources of simple bee hotel ideas for you to use or get inspired by. The first is from the Friends of the Earth website who have produced a step-by-step guide. You can download/read this guide by clicking here:
Another help sheet I’ve found comes from Hymettus, who advise on the conservation of bees, wasps and ants. It’s a general document on making bee houses with some guidance but is plenty to give you further ideas on what you can make with different materials. You can download/read this guide by clicking here:
Again, whilst these are UK-based organisations above, the bee hotels are applicable and appropriate to any country, so get creative!
If you want to check out commercially available bee hotels, take a look at my bee hotel review page.
Buy The Bamboo or Card Tubes
For those who can’t easily get to a garden centre to buy bamboo canes, or don’t want to cut up a whole bunch, there are ready-made tubes you can buy. These come in the right lengths and you just need to contain them in some way. You can bind them with wire or strong string, you can even put them into a large plastic bottle that’s had the top half cut off. Whatever works for you.
Here’s some examples:
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Find Out Which Bees Are Visiting You
Oh, almost forgot. You’ll need a way of identifying all these new bee visitors to your garden! Here are the places where you can find many of the common bees you’ll likely encounter in your backyard, depending on country. These are all free:
UK Bee Identification Guide (Simple)
Western USA Bee Identification Guide (Extensive)
Eastern USA Bee Identification Guide (Extensive)