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6. How to Raise Wild Bees & Bee Hotels
6.3 Spring: Bee House Set Up
6.3 Spring: Bee House Set Up
Hole-nesting bees need a bee house to protect their nesting holes from wind, rain, and if necessary, birds.
The bee house should provide a little spot for the cocoons to emerge and a roof that is 2-3” longer than the nesting holes.
If you paint the bee house, allow plenty of time, about a month, for the paint to cure because the smell of wet paint may deter the bees.
Orientation: Bees are cold-blooded and need the warmth of the morning sun to get started. Select a site that is south to southeast facing and with afternoon shade in hot locations.
Location: Install the bee house on a sturdy wall, fence or tree - bees do not like swinging in the breeze. Most solitary bees only fly about 300ft (100m) in search of nectar and pollen, so place their house near flowers or where you need pollination. Bee hotels installed in natural locations can provide habitat while we learn about native bees and their natural ranges.
Height: At eye-level, about 5ft (1.5m) off the ground to protect from small animals. These bees are fun to watch!
Place Nesting Holes
- Wild bees come in many sizes and each species has a nesting hole size they prefer. Provide a variety of nesting holes that have 4-10mm diameter openings.
Many wild solitary bees and wasps build their nests inside of nesting holes, also known as nesting materials. Each female bee will claim one nesting hole as her own and she can fill two or more nesting holes before her work is done. In the wild, a nesting hole is naturally closed at the end, like a grub hole in dead wood or a broken hollow stem. Most hole-nesting bees and wasps have a short lifespan and are not able to spend the time creating a nesting hole. Instead, they find existing holes created by another creature or one that naturally occurs in plants.
Pro Tip: To prevent disease and pest build up, choose healthy nesting materials that are natural, the right size and depth, and can be easily replaced every year. Crown Bees nesting materials are designed with the bee’s health in mind. Learn more.
- Large, open spaces in your bee hotel are attractive to birds and social wasps. Fill your bee hotel with as many nesting holes as you can and add some sticks, rocks, or wadded paper into any large spaces.
- Ensure the front open end of the nesting holes face the outside of the bee house.
- Tuck the nesting holes towards the back of the house as far as possible to protect against wind and rain.
- Natural Reeds and BeeTubes: Place loose nesting holes in a slightly uneven 3D arrangement so the bees can find their nesting hole easier.
- Bees use visual cues first and then scent to find their individual nesting hole.
- Reusable Wood Trays: The cardboard backing helps to encourage the bees to nest.
Bird Protection: If needed, choose bird wire or hardwire cloth with 3/4" openings and loosely create a 3" bubble around the front of the house. Do not install the wire flush against the nesting materials because this keeps bees from being able to get in as well.