Some bees live in hives, like the well-known honey bee, while others lead solitary lives. In fact, there are thousands of native and non-native solitary bee species that nest in natural and man-made cavities.
Cavity nesting females make nests in locations where long, tube-like holes are abundant. Some examples include hollow twigs, abandoned beetle burrows and tunnels in buildings, soil, plant stems our other locations.
After a nesting spot has been chosen, females will build cells and provide each with a single egg and food. The male offspring will emerge first to wait for females to emerge, so they can mate. Then the process starts over and the newly mated female will begin constructing cells for her offspring.
Solitary bees generally nest in the same area year after year if the nest site meets their needs. Although they aren’t social, they are communal and may build nests close to one another.
As important pollinators, solitary bees are appealing in landscapes because they’re rarely aggressive. Some common varieties include mason bees, leafcutter bees and carder bees.
Building a solitary bee hotel
A bee hotel can encourage more solitary bees to nest in your yard or garden and can be simple to construct. All you need for a functional bee hotel is a wooden box that is open in the front with a roof, and nesting blocks — smaller wooden blocks or small logs with various hole sizes drilled in them — to line the inside. Don’t use pressure-treated wood because the chemicals infused in the wood can be harmful to bees. If you use cedar it should be seasoned, as fresh cedar can repel some bees.
- Building a hotel frame. You should create a wooden frame that is at least 6 inches deep, 10 inches wide and 12 inches high. Make sure the back is enclosed and the front is open. Next, construct a roof to keep rain from saturating the inside. You may apply one to two coats of Danish oil as a protectant but allow serval days before installation for drying.
- Building nesting blocks. The blocks of wood you’re using should be 6 inches deep, so that they fit the frame you built. In each nesting block, you should drill holes of various diameters, ranging from 1/16-5/8 inches, to attract different bee species. Additionally, hole diameter determines the depth of the tunnel — holes with a diameter greater than 1/4 inch should be drilled 5-6 inches deep and holes with a diameter less than 1/4 should be drilled 3-5 inches deep. Don’t secure you’re finished nesting blocks with glue because they will need to be replaced yearly. Just stack them to fill the empty cavity in your frame.
- Installing your bee hotel. You’ll need to choose a location that receives direct sunlight for most of the day, facing south to southwest because warmth is important for the growth of bee larva. You’ll also need to ensure your hotel sits 3 to 5 feet off the ground with no vegetation in front of it. After you’ve selected an ideal location, you’ll need to cut a 4×4 post to size and attach it to the back of the frame you built. The best time to install hotels is during the spring; however, hotels will have activity through midsummer.
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