HELP POLLINATE YOUR GARDEN WITH A DIY BEE HOTEL
Did you know that there are over 800 species of native bees in Canada?
Solitary bees, like the leaf cutter bee and the mason bee, are a couple of very fruitful pollinators that you can find in the garden. As a matter of fact, a single one of these species can carry out as much pollination as 120 honey bees. For nesting they make use of cavities and tunnel spaces, if you want them in your garden you will want to build a bee hotel.
For your bee hotel you can upcycle various household items that would otherwise go in the trash or recycling. You can make use of an empty coffee container, a large milk carton, or a large plastic bottle for your structure.
- Medium size can OR large plastic bottle OR 2-4L empty milk carton
- 2 cardboard tubes from toilet paper/paper towel, sheets of scrap/printer paper, sheets of newspaper
- Liquid craft glue
- Masking tape
- Pencils, markers, or dowels of various sizes
- Sandpaper (to sand edges of can/bottle)
- Paint and paint brushes
Have your container (can/bottle/carton) rinsed and dried with the labels removed beforehand.
Step 1. (If using a carton) Following the fold lines at the top of the carton, get your scissors to cut halfway around to where the spout is. This leaves an overhang on the structure to keep out the elements.
Step 2. Paint your container. Make it your own with different designs and patterns!
Step 3. While you wait for the paint to dry. Layer sheets of plain paper over top of sheets of newspaper, long edges along together. The inner layer of white paper keeps the bees away from the newspaper ink.
Step 4. Measure the length of the container, get your scissors and cut your plain paper and newspaper to be the same length. (If using a can) Cut your paper 1 inch shorter than the length of your container, so there is a slight overhang sheltering the paper tubes you will be making. Once your paper is the right length, measure out a width of around 5 inches and cut in strips.
Step 5. Now that your papers are cut into size it’s time to make paper tubes for the bees to nest in. Get your pencils/dowels out and lay your strips of paper out in front of you. You can use 3-4 layers of newspaper and 2-3 layers of plain paper stacked on top of each other. Make sure to have the newspaper layer on the bottom and the plain paper on top. The newspaper strengthens the tube and decreases light exposure inside. Roll the paper around the pencil/dowel and use masking tape to secure the edges of the tube you’ve created. You will need about 30 rolls of different diameters (1/4in to 1/2in), depending on the size of your container.
Step 6. Tubes done, you can apply a very thin layer of glue at the bottom of the container. Get your two toilet paper rolls and place them inside and proceed to fill up the empty space with your paper tubes. When you’ve finished, shake your vessel to see if everything stays in place. Use
more glue or paper rolls if needed to ensure all parts are secure.
Step 7. You’re done building your beautiful bee hotel! Now to find a location you must find an open, sunny spot that is raised about 4-5ft up from the ground. Good examples include visible landmarks such as fence posts, buildings, or isolated trees. Placing it somewhere with access to nearby flowering plants that bloom throughout the seasons is ideal. Making sure you have the structure secured facing southeast so that it receives direct sunlight during the morning, and out of direct wind exposure is important because strong winds have the potential to disturb developing larvae. Once you have found your location make sure your bee hotel is tightly secured to avoid any unnecessary disturbing movements.
Now that you have fastened your bee hotel in its new location, you will need to keep up with some slight yearly maintenance that is vital to making sure that your bees stay happy and healthy. Monitor your bee hotel to see if you have nesting bees throughout the spring and summer.
If you come across leaves with perfect circles cut out of them, you have leafcutter bees! Tubes capped with mud and leaves also indicate a nest of mason bees or leafcutter bees.
Cleaning out the hotel every year is ideal and you can do this by removing the filled nesting tubes at the end of the season, around October. Store them in an unheated garage or shed and in the spring transfer them to a cardboard box with a small exit hole. Once the bees have left, you can then compost the empty used paper tubes and start creating more to replace them with.
Is backyard beekeeping next for you? Check out https://porch.com/advice/backyard-beekeeping to see if it’s right for you!