Build Your Own Bee Hotel

by Horticulture Apprentice, Lori Carlos

Date: March 22, 2020

So you’re thinking about building a bee hotel for your yard?

Body parts of orchard bee, female

Well, you have come to the right place! In this post I will give you the how-to on building a bee hotel, as well as some important information on the little pollination machines themselves! First off, let me tell you about the underdogs: native bees. There are over 4,000 species of native bees in North America, but most of the spotlight falls on the honey bee…which was introduced to the U.S from Europe when the colonists arrived. Not to say I am not happy that we have access to honey in any way, but we place a lot of pressure on the honey bee in our society. Too much pressure I may say, since they are currently dying off across the world due to diseases (American Foulbrood, a spore forming bacteria that kill the larvae), climate change, and habitat destruction. Honey aside, the honey bees are also pollinating thousands of crops that we rely on for survival. There is light at the end of this tunnel though, and one of its names is Osmia lignaria or the blue orchard mason bee!

What makes native bees so special?

Although native bees do not provide us with sweet sweet honey, they do tend to be far superior pollinators because of their specialized hairs on their abdomen called a ‘scopa’. The scopa holds the pollen loosely allowing a lot more to fall off as they travel from flower to flower, compared to the tightly packed pollen on the legs of honeybees. Native bees nesting habits are also quite different from honey bees. They are good at social distancing, meaning they do not have hive colonies that they live in and instead remain solitary. This makes them good bees to have around the yard because they are not aggressively protecting honey, and therefore extremely less likely to sting you.

Solitary bees life cycle

Let’s get to building!

  1. Cut a 6’’x 8’’ panel into a pentagon with 6’’ tall square sides and a 2’’ tall tapering roof. (Get creative with the size, you could go smaller or larger)
  2. Cut three 6’’x 6’’ panels, they will make up the sides and bottom
  3. Nail or screw these panels together, creating an open face  and open roof “box”
  4. Cut two 5’’x7’’ panels for the roof
  5. Place panels so the 1’’ extra overhangs the front
  6. Nail or screw these on to create the roof
  7. Add all the reeds and branches with holes drilled in them into the open face of the bee hotel
  8. Make hole sizes ranging from 1/8’’ to 3/4’’ in diameter to attract a diversity of native bee species
  9. Violà!! You have built your bee hotel!!

Masterfully drawn bee hotel examples by yours truly (they look better when you squint)