From the Jardin du Luxembourg, linkMason bees are one of the solitary bees that are attracted to bee hotels, and a mason bee can pollinate a fruit tree 50 times more effectively than a honeybee. Solitary bees don't construct hives, but they build nests and they really like to build those nests in hollow tube like structures. You can even buy a bee hotel on eBay, but why would you need to? It's easy to make your own, and it's a perfect project to do with kids. National Geographic has a great tutorial, here. Most of the items for a bee hotel can be found in your yard or garage. When my Godson and his brother came to stay with us for a few days over their Spring Break, we got to work on our bee hotel.
Owen cutting the sedumsAnthony had torn a huge electrical box off of our silo a few days prior to the boys coming, and I thought it would make the perfect frame for a bee hotel. Halfway into working on it, I realized that it was WAY, WAY too big, but once we were that far, there was no going back.
Where the original electrical box was
Anthony moving the giant bee hotelWe were outside for 8 hours each day, with the boys drilling holes into logs, pruning back hollow sedum stems and stacking items into the hotel. Owen even made the sign; he was beyond stoked to be able to use the Dremel tool by himself.
Owen and Charlie, the ultimate Bee Hotel contractors
I think Jen and I liked working on the Bee Hotel more than anyoneAn extremely rainy week followed the boys visit, so I wasn't able to finish the bee hotel for a while. In the meantime, there was an article in one of the local papers talking about bee hotels. One key sentence I read was that the bee hotels need to be at least 3 feet off of the ground. What??? Ours was sitting on the ground and it weighed about 500 pounds at this point. Plus Anthony had bolted the hotel with 2 giant bolts to a fence post. This was going to take some serious negotiation with him.
On the groundI asked my Master Gardener instructor about it being 3 feet off of the ground and she was very sweet, saying "well, at least you'll get some cool beetles in there." Beetles? No thank you, I have plenty of those inside of my house right now. I don't need to provide any more homes for them. Anthony was actually very amenable and got to work once we had a nice sunny day again. I emptied everything out of it, he got 3 discarded tree stumps from the neighbors and we propped it up, re-bolted it and I got to work filling it back up. This bee hotel project cost me a grand total of $10, and that's only because I bought some bamboo sticks in order to create more hollow pieces to stick inside. Our final step was to attach chicken wire over the front in order to keep birds out and all of the bits and pieces in. Voila! Here is our finished project. I'm just hoping for some bees to start checking in. ***One final and major note, is that sometimes bee hotels can be colonized by wasps (read the study if you are interested, here) so I'm going to have to keep an eye on that. I'll be sure to let you all know how it works out.