We’ve all seen those cute bee hotels for sale from out favorite seed supplier or garden store. But some mass-produced bee habitats may create more problems than they solve. The main issues are ill-suited building material, lack of annual maintenance by the “inn-keeper”, and potential for the spread of pollinator pests and diseases due to overcrowding.
Here are some relevant facts about bee nesting habits that can guide our efforts from the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation:
-70% of native bees are ground nesting, creating burrows in soil. They need access to bare soil and may be impacted by tilling.
-30% of native bees are cavity nesting such as leafcutter and mason bees. These species need cavities in dead wood, hollow stems, or brush piles.
-Bumble bees create nests in cavities underground or in trees. They prefer abandoned rodent burrows or sheltered areas such as those beneath brush piles.
Support Ground Nesting Bees
To encourage native ground nesting bees, clear the vegetation of small patches of level or sloping ground and gently compact the soil surface. These patches should be well drained and in an open, sunny place. Different ground conditions will attract different bee species. Each female will excavate her own nest tunnel and brood cells, and stock the cells with pollen and nectar.
Build a Bumble Bee Box
Bumble Bees are non-solitary cavity nesting bees so they require a bit more space than a hollow tube. The Alberta Native Bee Council has created simple to follow plans to build your own Bumble Bee Box (similar, but not identical, to the one pictured on the left). Once built and installed, you can sign up to be a citizen scientist and share your observations of the Bee Box with the Council.
For wood-nesting and cavity-nesting bees, you can easily create a shelter for them by drilling holes into a piece of untreated wood. Michigan State University Extension has put together a beautiful and informative document, Building and Managing Bee Hotels for Wild Bees.
“Community regulations that you mow your lawn and keep it neat and tidy are an ecological nightmare for pollinators like bees, whose habitats rely on the mess nature makes when tree branches, leaves, and stems fall on the ground.”-Erin Biba from Your Cheap Ass Bee House Is Probably Killing The Bees