The Buzz on Bees

Much of the food that you eat owes itself to pollinating animals. Pollinators include bats and birds, but the majority are insects – butterflies, moths, flies, beetles, wasps, and especially bees! Alberta is home to over 300 species of bees, most of which are solitary bees. Solitary bees are not aggressive, unlike other types of social bees that swarm and live in colonies. Solitary bees are also very efficient pollinators!

Bee Hotels for Solitary Bees

There are many ways to build a bee hotel, varying from simple to complex. Bee hotels attract tunnel-nesting solitary bees and other solitary pollinators, which lay their eggs in the tunnels of the hotel.

Design and Build

There are many ways to build a bee hotel, varying from simple to complex. Suggestions for your hotel design, depending on your skill level and time available include:

  1. Simple - The simplest hotel, suitable for a youth project with adult supervision, is to either saw bamboo stalks or add paper straws other other natural stalks inside a milk or juice carton, drill holes into a log or wood block.
  2. Moderate - With more time, you can create a larger bee hotel by adding more wood blocks, bamboo stalks, or paper straws into an old crate or cabinet.
  3. Complex - For those with more time, skill and creativity, you can build a custom box for your hotel, in any shape you desire, whether a simple square or rectangle, or something more creative like a triangle, hexagonal, house or flower shape. Add a combination of wood blocks with drilled holes, paper straws or bamboo as nesting sites for bees. The design of your bee hotel is only limited by your imagination!

Example bee hotels by Robert Brundage, Paul Quan, EALT, and Parkallen Community Gardeners

Specifications, Placement and Maintenance

Bee hotels attract tunnel-nesting solitary bees. The most basic requirements are that the bee hotel have holes ranging from about 8–16 cm (3–6 inches) deep and 3–7 mm (3/32–1/4 inches) wide. Wider tunnels should be deeper; narrower tunnels can be shorter. A range of hole sizes and depths is good for biodiversity. The number of tunnels available in your bee hotel is up to you!

Try your hand at a small, medium or large bee hotel, with EALT blueprints, or try a simple version, suitable for kids.

Place your bee hotel off the ground, facing east or southeast so it gets morning sun, and sheltered from wind and rain. You might wish to nail a board on top of your hotel to protect it from rain. Place it somewhere it won’t get moved by the wind or people, as bees can be sensitive to movement and orientation of the hotel once they’ve settled in. Mount it to a fence, tree, or a sturdy post.

Be sure to clean and maintain your bee hotel every year -  find out how in our bee hotel maintenance guide.

Photos by Hil Reine, Marg Reine, Betty Fisher, Patsy Cotterill and EALT.

Planting a variety of native flowers in your garden benefits pollinators, such as these ones recommended by the Edmonton Native Plant Group

Pollination Importance

Some flowering plants that produce our food are pollinated by wind or water, but about 3/4 of all the flowering plants in the world rely on insect pollinators to reproduce. However, pollinators are declining for a number of reasons, including: habitat loss, pesticide use, and climate change. 

Because there are fewer pollinators, food producing plants are pollinated less. We need pollinators like solitary bees to pollinate our plants, including our vegetable plots, flower gardens and agricultural crops.

The Edmonton and Area Land Trust’s natural areas in the countryside around Edmonton are homes to pollinators for the surrounding agricultural lands. However, we can all do our part to help urban pollinators.

 

This work is carried out with the aid of a grant from the Commission for Environmental Cooperation and the Sitka Foundation.

Quick Links to Bee and Pollinator Resources

Did you make your own bee hotel? Send a photo to rebecca@ealt.ca or mention @EdAreaLandTrust on Instagram or Twitter.