If you read my post aboutanimal cooperation, you may recall that 90% of all bee species are solitary bees. Many types will create their own private nest but do so beside others, much like separate residences in an apartment building or hotel. For this week’s challenge let’s build one of these structures. It’s too late in the season for this year’s bees to use it, but you’ll have it ready by spring.
Note that there are two broad categories of cavity-building solitary bees and they have different nesting times. First, there are the mason bees (Osmia sp.) which are active in the spring. They are followed by the leafcutter bees (Megachile sp.) seek nesting locations during the summer months.
Both types of bees seek hollow tubes with a very smooth interior that are roughly 4 to 6 inches deep. Depending on the species, they may require a tube with a diameter anywhere from 3/32 of an inch to ⅜ inches. Be sure to leave ¾ of an inch between each hole or tube.
There are some great instructions already on the web that describe the building process so no need to rewrite them. Here are two excellent sources:
A few additional thoughts to consider:
- Ensure that the hotel is facing southeast to receive the most sunlight in the morning.
- Be sure that the “roof” is angled a bit so that rain runs off instead of pooling.
- Be aware that the hotel might attract unwanted guests. Sometimes the bee larvae attract lots of ants. Paper wasps can be opportunistic interlopers. Finally, if you see spider webs, likely, the hotel is not getting enough sunlight.
After a nesting season, you will need to clean out the tubes. Use half a cup of bleach diluted in a gallon of water as the cleanser. A pipe cleaner will provide good friction.
This project will provide additional nesting sites for some of our most valuable pollinators.
The challenge is rated as moderately difficult.