Honey bees scare many of us. However, bees are oftentimes named as “nature’s tiny workers”. They play a critical role in moving pollen from one plant to another, and in the process help make new seeds grow into fresh plants. They prey small insects. We mostly associate bees with the making of honey, done by the species of bees called “honeybees”. Bee experts say that there are approximately 20,000 diverse species of bees on Earth. Most bees are solitary, i.e they are wild and live on their own. However, honeybees live in communal hives tended by people.
Bee hotels are primarily handmade habitats for bees. They are built by people so as to provide nesting areas for bees. The need to provide an artificial habitat for the bees arose with the increasing loss of their natural habitats. Most bee hotels are built in suburban backyards and rural farmlands. There are also some of these bee hotels on the city rooftops.
The loss in the natural habitat of bees is caused mainly due to the increased use of pesticides and chemicals on plants, thereby destroying bee colonies. Colonies may have been living in the same nesting sites for decades. Another cause of the loss of habitat is due to increase in construction of buildings, i.e. urbanization.
As we mentioned before, most bees are solitary. These solitary bees usually make independent nest cells for their larvae. They generally chose places such as small tunnels, holes in the ground or sandy banks or piles of sand. Artificial bee houses may be provided by drilling holes into the wood in gardens, to encourage bees to nest.
These bee houses are also called as “trap houses” or “bee condos”. Some people are of the opinion that term “bee hotels” is not apt for these houses since the bees are not visiting guests, but reside permanently for about 11 months as it develops from an egg, through larval stage, as a dormant pupa and finally emerges as an adult.
Most bee houses offer nesting sites for just a small number of bees. The major disadvantages of these bee houses, generally made of wood are insufficient protection from wet weather and the possibility of formation of fungus molds on plastic tubes. Bee houses tend to be expensive.
A major aspect for concern is the management of the bee houses. Very often, the manufacturers do not provide the required instructions for long-term management of the bee houses.
Scott Maclvor, an ecologist at the University of Toronto Scarborough, Canada, says that the process of bees using handmade bee houses may be thought of as a mom buying a house with several rooms. She lays her eggs and leaves food for them to eat after they hatch. By the time her young ones are ready to check out, they too have become adults.
“It’s actually quite easy to make a bee hotel,” notes Rebecca Ellis, a conservation biologist at the Edmonton & Area Land Trust in Alberta, Canada.
Making a bee hotel can be done at home, using re-cycled or waste wood and logs. A wooden box with one side open and a sloping roof is needed. This should be fixed to a fence or a wall, and filled with small logs into which holes had been previously drilled. Bees will now use these drilled holes as their nesting sites.