How to Make Your Own Bee Hotel

Make your backyard more bee-friendly with this simple DIY project that anyone can tackle.

August 24, 2015
Bee hotel
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You're not the only one looking for a good end-of-summer hotel deal—so are the bees. Not all bees live in communal hives, explains Tracey Stewart, author of Do Unto Animals. "The solitary bee is the most effective bee to encourage in our backyard," Stewart explains in her book. "Solitary bees, like the mason bee, live on their own and not in colonies."

That's where the bee hotel comes in. Finding out a safe place to crash is becoming increasingly difficult for these solitary bees, especially in urban areas. Bee hotels offer these important pollinators a variety of rooms in which to lay their eggs." As the bee population continues to decline, encouraging all bee types is crucial," says Stewart.

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Bees face plenty of challenges, from not being able to find urban housing to having their food supply tainted with toxic pesticides. But there has been some positive movement for the bees. For instance, Norway created the first ever "bee highway" of bee hotels, and stores including Home Depot, BJ's, and Lowes have made pledges to ditch neonicotinoid pesticides from their nurseries.

More: Is Your Yard Killing Bees?

Once you've planted your bees' favorite plants (hint: choose native plants), consider making your own bee hotel with this DIY project. (Not sure what plants bees like? The Bee Smart app can help you out.)

Lisel Ashlock

We can provide a place for the harmless mason bee to lay individual nests for their larvae. They are attracted to all kinds of materials for nest-making, from bamboo stems to blocks of wood, hollow logs, and hollow sticks, as well as store-bought nesting tubes made of paper or of natural reeds.

Supplies:

  • Carpenter's glue or hammer and nails
  • Wooden or timber box, 8 inches deep and open-faced
  • Flat piece of wood or timber 2 inches bigger than the size of your box, for making a slightly overhanging roof
  • Saw or other cutting instrument
  • Bamboo stems or store-bought mason bee nesting tubes (enough to fill the box)
  • Plumber's strap (available at any hardware store) or wire for hanging the house

Directions:

  1. Glue or nail the flat piece of wood to one short side of the wooden box to create a roof. Be sure that it overhangs the edge of the box slightly to protect the house from rain.
  2. Cut the bamboo stems 8 inches long, to match the depth of the wooden box.
  3. Place the bamboo stems or nesting tubes in the box with the open hole on one end facing outward. Be sure to fill the entire space.
  4. Choose a spot to hang the bee house. You should choose an area that will receive direct sunlight for part of the day but not get too wet on rainy days. If the bamboo stems or wooden box become too wet, they will rot and become useless. The house should be at least 3 feet off the ground and free of vegetation that may block entrance to the bamboo stems or tubes, where the bees will lay their eggs.

Bee hotel plans excerpted from Do Unto Animals by Tracey Stewart (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2015. Illustrations by Lisel Ashlock.