What makes a good bee hotel? How to install it and maintain it to be best for bees?

Our research shows that over a third of bee hotels aren’t used by the species they’re meant to benefit… if every bee hotel was perfectly installed it would have a massive impact on solitary bee populations.

If you’re here to contribute to the bee hotel survey mentioned in BBC Gardeners World magazine then please follow the link HERE. Thank you for contributing to the research that supports our work.

3 top bee hotel installing tips!

Getting your bee hotel installed well is the most important step if you want to see it used.

  1. South facing – your bee hotel is going to host a solitary bee’s eggs and be the nursery for a solitary bee’s young before they leave the nest. The temperature of the spot you’re offering a solitary bee is important. South facing spots will get the warmth of the sun.
  2. 1 metre + above the ground – entrusting a bee hotel with your young is a big thing for a solitary bee and so ensuring it’s safe from predators is vital. Installing your hotel in a spot at least a metre above the ground will keep your bee hotel out of reach of predators.
  3. Secure so it won’t swing – before a solitary bee leaves its eggs it stores up a tiny mountain of pollen for its young to feed on when they hatch. If your bee hotel moves in the wind then the egg may get separated from this important first feed.

What does a brilliant bee hotel look like?

Brilliant bee hotels come in all kinds of shapes and sizes; we’ve listed some at the foot of the page. We thought we’d design our own brilliant bee hotel that you can make yourself out of surplus materials to show you the features of a brilliant bee hotel. We’ll share a ‘how to’ video about making one very soon.

Brilliant bee hotel features infographic

These features make a bee hotel brilliant. There are loads of good bee hotels that have shorter tubes that aren’t replaceable… these features aren’t essential.

  1. Nesting tubes 150mm long – solitary bees tend to lay several eggs in one nesting tube, starting with female eggs and finishing with a male egg closest to the open end. Longer nesting tubes allows a bee to lay more offspring, positively impacting that species population in an area. 150mm tubes aren’t essential. There are lots of great bee hotels with short nesting tubes out there. Longer tubes will have a greater positive impact on your local solitary bee populations.
  2. Tidy nesting tube ends – solitary bees look for tidy nesting tubes and so ensure these are cut cleanly. Some bees will tidy the end of tubes themselves but starting with clean and tidy tubes will increase the chances of your bee hotel being used.
  3. Sheltered nesting tubes – the health of the offspring of the solitary bees that use your hotel is of fundamental importance. If a bee hotel holds fills up with the rain that falls on it, or the tubes aren’t offered some shelter from a downpour by the outer casing of a bee hotel then the offspring may not make it through to fledge the nest or your local solitary bees may not use your bee hotel.
  4. Replaceable nesting tubes – this is not essential however solitary bees will only use a nesting tube once and so if you’re keen to see your bee hotel supporting solitary bee populations year on year then it is worth replacing previously used tubes during the winter when you can clearly see which tubes are currently occupied. There has also been some research that show’s previously used nesting tubes could spread disease.

Other FAQs

Nesting tube diameters – bee hotel nesting tube diameters can vary from 6mm to 10mm

Bee and bug hotels – there are plenty of insect hotels on the market that combine solitary bee nesting tubes with habitats for other insects (fir cones etc). Our personal preference is to encourage bees and bugs separately. We feel that adding bug habitats to a bee hotel potentially gives a home to predators who may enjoy feasting on the delicate little parcels of food and bee infants that solitary bees create in your nesting tubes.

Drilled nesting holes – nesting holes drilled in blocks of wood is a common offering. In a similar way to nesting tubes that aren’t replaceable, drilled holes are only likely to be used once. There are lots of great bee hotels with drilled nesting holes. If nesting tubes are replaceable they can be used year on year with fresh tubes.

…and finally it’s worth saying that we remain curious and open as we continue to learn. The information above is based on our research and reading so far and represents our best understanding at the time of writing. If you have different experience or understandings then we’d love to learn from what you know and if necessary adapt our advice. Our citizen science survey will continue to shape our understanding and the advice we offer. If you have a bee hotel and haven’t completed our citizen science survey to uncover the secret lives of bee hotels then we’d really value your contribution! You’ll find our citizen science survey HERE.

Making Brilliant Bee Hotels

Making your own bee hotel is so easy and we thought we’d show you how!

You can find a more detailed guide to making this brilliant bee hotel HERE.

Pile of bamboo for bee hotel making

Cut bee hotel bamboo is now available widely online. This offering is on Amazon HERE

Buying Brilliant Bee Hotels

This Eden Project bee hotel is one of the best on the market at really good value for money. They are available on the Eden Project website HERE and in local Oxfam stores and at Oxfam online HERE.

Amor Natura – These are quite posh but beautiful bee hotels. See more HERE

Green and Blue – The bee brick is a very innovative and beautifully designed thing. See more HERE