Winter season is upon us. The cold front, chilly breeze and wetter days are coming. There will be less foraging activities which also means less beekeeping activities that will leave you bored and nothing else to do. Instead, you can start to build a bee hotel for our native bees! Here’s a small guide on how to build a simple bee hotel.
Ever since I can remember, there has always been an ongoing debate between honey bee beekeepers and native bees carers. No matter which side you’re on, these species go hand in hand and we have the utmost ability to aid in their propagation.
Bee hotels are easy to make especially if you already have the resources. Native Australian bees are solitary bees and they usually build their nests on cracks in walls, hollow logs, holes in trees, holes in dead plants and even burrows in the ground.
What do you need to consider in building bee hotels?
First is looking for the best location. Ideally, they need some fair amount of shade and sun. Another important thing to consider is sources of pollen and nectar. As much as you love convenience when you buy a house, bees are fairly similar. Having a variety of pollen and nectar-rich flowering plants that bloom throughout the year as well as a water source is a good place to build the perfect bee hotel.
Second thing to consider is ensuring a pesticide free environment. As much as any other creatures, the bees would like a healthy source of food for them to eat and provide to their brood. This includes having the soil chemical-free, otherwise the bees will instinctively avoid visiting or even nesting around it.
Third thing to consider is the types of bee hotels you can choose from. Before deciding, it’s best to look around your area and check what you already have! Check if you have any tree stumps, logs, offcuts of timber, or even twigs and bark . If you found any tree stumps or logs, you can start by drilling holes on them. Ensure that the wood is not contaminated with any toxins or chemicals. If you found some wigs, you can start building a small ground nest by using wires to hold twigs and bark together. Additionally, if you have cement blocks or bricks with holes you can use that too.
Next thing to consider is the potential tenants of your bee hotel.
Each species has different needs and would be attracted to different materials.
Resin Bee, Leafcutter Bee, Reed Bee
For these bees, you can build many small bee hotels. You can imitate their natural habitat by using plenty of twigs or bamboo canes and drilled timber blocks. The bees love the bamboo to nest in its cavity. Cut off on one end and leave the other end sealed by the node. It needs to be at least 15cm long and if not, drill through the node in your bamboo to make it longer. The cavities should also be at least between 3 and 13mm wide. These bees are found all throughout the states which makes them your common residents.
Reed bees also prefer to burrow inside pithy stems such as the lantana canes. You can simply bundle these together with a wire or pack them lightly in a frame. Ensure it is tight enough that the bundle doesn’t move around.
Blue Banded Bee, Teddy Bear Bee
These bees naturally reside on soft clay soils. You can use timber or concrete boxes or reuse plastic pipes where you can pack soft clay soils. Group them together and the scent will attract many of them to build their nests. These bees will also build nests by burrowing into the ground. They will burrow on houses with shallow soil underneath, mud bricks or soft mortar. These species exist in all states of Australia except for Tasmania.
These bees are the most popular native bees and are only found on Queensland, NSW, WA and NT. Additionally, you can take care of them in a hive box, similar to what we do with honey bees. The most common hive box is called the Original Australian Tetragonula Hive (OATH). It is generally smaller than our usual honey bee hives/supers, with a two-part design that allows for brood development. AussieBee’s provide the exact dimensions and measures for you to build one. Read here.
These bees will help pollinate your garden. Additionally, if you farm some crops that require buzz pollination, these bees will help pollinate them! Which of the native bees are you looking at having as your tenants?
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