Be a honey: How to make a bee hotel at home

You better beelieve it (sorry, not sorry): there is such a thing as international bee day. The United Nations themed 2020's World Bee Day "Save the Bees". And no, that is not because there's some sort of dramatic decline in baby names starting a B.

There are many ways to build your own bee hotel. The easiest and most eco-friendly way is to use what you’ve got – from second-hand furniture to old plastic bottles. If you have pre-loved furniture that is made from untreated wood, you’re winning.

According to the UN the global COVID-19 pandemic has a had a dramatic impact on bees and their keepers. Like many industries, beekeepers' livelihoods have been threatened by economic shutdowns all around the world.

Bees are under also threat. Thanks to us humans, species extinction rates are 100 to 1000 times higher than normal.

We’ve made this mess, we can help fix it, too.

If you’ve ever wanted to take the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel quite literally, this one is for you. A home-made bee hotel isn’t just great for bees living rent-free, it’s a great way to upcycle furniture and repurpose stuff that was destined for the scrap heap. And you know how much we love giving our old furniture a second lease on life, don’t you?

Upcycle furniture for a bee hotel

bee hotel upcycle furniture

Old, untreated wood is great for nesting materials. Wild solitary bees need holes from two to ten mm to burrow and lay their eggs, so aim for a range of diameters when you are collecting your material. Ensure your nesting blocks are dry before you start building.

What you’ll need for a DIY bee hotel

upcycle furniture for a bee hotel

The basics – as you’ll see in the pictures, older tables, drawers or basically anything stable is a great fit for framing the hotel. 

For a basic bee hotel, you'll need: 

  • 2 litre plastic bottle (or length of water pipe)
  • Sandpaper
  • Craft knife and cutting mat
  • Strong twine, about 1 metre long
  • Garden clippers or secateurs
  • Modelling clay (optional)

 

How to build a bee hotel at home 

Let's get started with a little video. This version is slightly less permanent than the timber frame made from your pre-loved furniture.

If you’re using a plastic bottle or pipe, cut both ends with a craft knife. Smooth the edges to make sure the bees’ delicate wings don’t get caught.

Socially distant bees (or solitary bees as they are more commonly know) like to burrow deep, so mix up the lengths and aim for a minim of 100mm in depth.

Cut the rooms (that’s the canes of whatever you are using) shorter than the cylinder or frame you’re young to stack them in. Avoid materials with too many obtrusive knots – bees can’t burrow through these.

Sand down the ends of the stems and frame. Bees are quite particular visitors – sharp edges at the entry will put them off.  You wouldn’t want razor wire waiting for you at a hotel door, would you? Ditto for splinters inside the stems – these can clip their wings.   

Use clay or wax to block out the back of the hollow canes or stems before binding them with twine.

Thread twine or rope through your cylinder or frame if you want to hang up your hotel. Just make sure it’s secure against any gusts of wind.

bee hotel upcycle plastic bottles

If the packed stems feel a bit shaky, fill it up with stems, twigs or more bamboo canes so that it fits snuggly.

You’re the bees’ knees

Actually, have you ever seen bees’ knees? 

make bee hotel at home

Pollen sacks! That’s not some ye olde insult. That’s where bees keep their pollen. Pretty neat, huh? Thank us when you happen upon this sight one day and you don't have to do an internet search for "strange yellow things on bee legs".

Put your bee hotel in full sun, facing south or south-east, at least a metre off the ground. Keep it dry and protected from the elements, so that the insides don’t go mouldy and moe the hotel in the fall and winter so that the bee eggs stay safe.

The bee hotel can live happily inside a greenhouse, garage, shed or similar – anywhere dry and unheated. They’re seasonal creatures, like many holidaymakers. Store the bee hotel from October to February and open for business outside again in March.

Once your darlings hatch, replace the used stems and prepare for a new generation of bee babies. 

If you're ready to go up a gear and upcycle old furniture to make a bee hotel, use this video as inspiration.

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