insect hotel

Support the bee population with a bee hotel. Pixabay

Many people are afraid of bee stings and try to avoid these flying insects at all costs. Others welcome their company, knowing the important role that bees play in the pollination process. If you’re a gardener or simply want to do your part to help the bee population, buying or making a bee hotel for your backyard is one way to increase the number of native bees in your area. Bee hotels are primarily used by solitary bees to make their nests. You don’t even need to worry too much about getting stung: Solitary bees are less likely to sting then honeybees, as they’re not forced to protect their hive.

What Is a Bee Hotel?

Bee hotels provide shelter to some species of bees that have lost their natural habitats. These bee-friendly abodes typically contain small tubes or hole-riddled wood where bees can nest. Most consist of several sections designed to give bees and other types of insects shelter and a place to nest year-round.

In California, we have about 1,600 species of native bees, including solitary species like mason, cuckoo, leaf-cutting, digger, and carpenter. Unlike bumblebees and honeybees that live socially, solitary bees prefer to make individual nest cells for their larvae. Solitary bees typically nest in small holes or tunnels in sandy banks or areas of sparse lawns.

What Are the Pros and Cons?

Bee hotels have been popping up more and more in areas where the bee populations are dwindling. Store-bought and man-made contraptions provide a safe haven for solitary bees that do not produce honey but play a critical role in the growth of plants, fruits, and veggies. Bees are highly efficient pollinators of wildflowers and crops in our gardens and farms. In fact, a single red mason bee is equivalent to 120 worker honeybees in terms of pollinating ability.

Of course, there are some downfalls when it comes to bee hotels. One major problem that bee hotel-keepers face is an abundance of native wasps. In addition to unwanted insects like wasps, some bee hotels become overrun by parasites, which can create an unhealthy environment for the bees. Before deciding on a bee hotel, remember that it requires regular maintenance. This involves removing cocoons from the tunnels at least once a year.

Should You DIY or Buy?

Buying a bee hotel can save you time and effort if you prefer to get your bee hotel up and running quickly. But if you already have the necessary materials lying around, building your own bee hotel doesn’t take too much work and can save you money. If you want to make a hanging hotel, you’ll need a sturdy wooden box. Fill the box with smells and textures familiar to bees, such as dead wood, straw, dried grass, or leaves. You’ll then want to get some thick pieces of wood or dried sticks and drill a few holes big enough for insects to travel inside. Secure all of these elements with wire to keep them steady inside the box. Finally, hang the bee hotel in your garden and wait for your buzzing guests to arrive.