Unlike honeybees, most wild bees are solitary loners. Only bumblebees and a few other bee species live in a social community, as people commune together. Wild bees make the most significant contribution to pollination, but the population of animals depends on the food and nesting availability. In recent years, horticulture has changed, the supply of flowering plants is dwindling, and suitable nesting sites are becoming scarce.
Urban and suburbs are expanding rapidly, which, destroys habitat, leading to the endangerment of an ever-growing number of bee species. Fortunately, the discussion about bee mortality is leading to many people to rethinking the issue, more and more gardeners are providing the wild pollinators with flowering plants and even building nesting sites – the so-called “wild bee hotel.”
Hotel, Sweet Home
Actually, the term “hotel” is a misnomer, because in a hotel most guests stays are brief, do not change anything then leave soon. Wild bees, however, cleanse their future nest before moving in, build dividing walls between the brood cells and provide food stores for offspring. Depending on the species, a larva can spend up to a year or more in such an enclosure before it hatches from its cocoon. Few hotel guests clean the room, renovate it and lay down food stores in their rooms. However, the popularity of wild bee hotels is increasing to the benefit of the wild pollinator community.
The nesting site depends on food supplies
A wild bee hotel can be placed in any garden, on any balcony. However, it depends on the local food supply, this determines whether or not wild bees will settle in the bee hotel. Garden owners are often disappointed when they have established a nesting a, and no wild bees can be found to have moved in later. Maybe the food supply in the immediate vicinity of the bee hotel is insufficient? Wild bees use nesting sites only if sufficient plants are found within a radius of around 335 yards (0.2 miles) that are suitable as food sources.
Also, most wild bees are true to their birthplace, so they find a nesting site near their birthplace. If all conditions are met, the animals accept the offer after one to two years.
Building a wild bee hotel – the conditions
All bee species are similar in that they like it warm and dry. Especially dry. A nesting spot should always be placed in a dry place. Penetrating rainwater can, for example, result in a fungal infestation, so particular attention should be paid to the choice of location. The entrance should always be clear, and the location should be at least a foot above the ground level. The entrance to the nest should get some direct sunlight to ware the nest in the morning or by noon if possible.
A simple bee hotel consists of a wooden box filled with hollow plant stems. For protection against birds, a simple wire mesh can be suspended over the front, so the predator can’t reach the nest.
Simple nesting aids for balcony, carport, and terrace
The University of Nebraska presents simple ways to make a wild bee hotel in a few simple steps, http://extensionpublications.unl.edu/assets/pdf/g2256.pdf
All you need is bamboo, an empty tin can – alternatively a small wooden box – and some cotton wool. The bamboo tubes are sawed so that they are longer than the can. It is crucial that no sharp edges are left over, so if necessary, once again with a file smooth the edges. One side of the bamboo is closed with cotton wool – this side comes down into the can. The bamboo should fill the tin can bulging and the can will at best find a full sun. However, here it must be ensured that it is absolutely firm and cannot fall even in strong winds, at best, it is buried in a flower box.
Another possibility is a stored tree trunk, which is equipped with various large holes.
Important in the selection of simple materials
The basic requirement for a species-appropriate and functioning wild bee hotel are the materials used. In no case should glass tubes be used, even if this would allow events to be observed inside. It almost always promotes fungal infection, which destroys the brood.
The use of wood must be wood that has been deposited, and there should be no formation of cracks in the hole – this is one reason why wild bees would avoid such nesting aids. After drilling, no wood fibers should adorn the holes. Therefore, bamboo tubes should be checked carefully before they are used, as they often have splintered edges. If necessary, you must smooth out with sandpaper.
Pine cones are just as suitable as straw or perforated bricks. Ash, for example, is well suited for the construction of a nesting box. As a natural nesting aide, rotten deadwood can be used wonderfully. Simply placed on the balcony or on the terrace and the animals use the existing holes.