Bee Hotel Winterizing (Hint: Don't do anything!) and Maintenance

We’ve been busy bees this summer! On top of all our conservation land stewardship, we’ve given seven bee hotel workshops. We really enjoyed these opportunities to teach people about the importance of solitary bees in Alberta (all 300+ species!) and help build a bee hotel to install in their own backyards or give as a gift! Here are a few photos from the workshops we’ve given. Keep your eyes open for upcoming workshops or let us know well in advance if you’d like to help host one. Our schedule fills up fast!

In case you forgot how they work, here is an infographic about how bee hotels get used:

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Winterizing

We’ve already had a few tastes of winter here in Alberta and winter will be here soon enough and you might we wondering what do with your bee hotel. Here’s what you need to do.

After the eggs are laid in the tunnel, they overwinter, which means they stay in the tunnels for the entire winter. The bees using your bee hotel are adapted to this climate, so you don’t need to worry about bringing your bee hotel in to a warm place. If you wish, you can bring it in an unheated garage or shed or put it under a deck to shelter from the wind, but that isn’t necessary. If you do move it somewhere for the winter, remember to put it back before temperatures go above freezing and the snow melts. If the bee hotel gets too warm, the eggs might hatch and bees will emerge with no available food sources.

Maintenance

Proper maintenance of a bee hotel is essential not only for the health of the bees that use it, but also to extend the life of the hotel itself. Because bee hotels have many tunnels close together, fungus and mites may spread more easily than they would in a natural environment.

Cleaning your bee hotel once per year is important to ensure the bee hotel benefits bees. It is best to do this in the spring after all of the eggs have hatched and bees have emerged but if you see a tunnel not being used, you can clean it out now.

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Depending on the style of bee hotel, cleaning will be different. If your bee hotel contains natural stalks or paper straws, simply dispose of these after they have been used and replace them with fresh stalks. If you have holes drilled into wood blocks, tunnels should be cleaned in the spring, after the bees have emerged. Keep a eye on your bee hotel in the spring to see if bees have emerged. The tunnel will no longer be capped off, but debris will remain inside the tunnel. You might even see a bee come out of the tunnel. Clean out the tunnels with a pipe cleaner, small straw brush, or by blowing compressed air inside. After a couple of years, replace the wood blocks in your bee hotel with fresh ones.

You can find more details in our Bee Hotel Maintenance guide about cleaning cocoons and emergence chambers.

 Photo by: Doris May

Photo by: Doris May

Bee hotels are a safe place for native solitary bees in Alberta to nest and will help reduce the risk of their population decline. Bee hotels aren’t the only solution, though! They are an awesome conversation starter to teach others about the importance of bees (and other pollinators) and what we can do to help them. Please educate yourself and spread the word!

We have more information on our Protecting Pollinators web page and a “Troubleshooting and FAQs” section that should address any problems or questions you might have. If you are still stuck, feel free to email outreach@ealt.ca and we can help you out.

We also love to hear how your bee hotel is doing - pictures encouraged. Please post your photos to social media and tag us @edarealandtrust on Twitter and Instagram and @EdmontonandAreaLandTrust on Facebook. Have you checked out our Bee Hotel Map yet? it shows all of the bee hotel locations across Edmonton and area and you can add yours!