At last some activity in my "Bee Hotel"

16th May 2012
This is my first attempt at encouraging solitary bees to nest in my garden in a "Bee Hotel". Last winter I spent quite a bit of time reading up about bee boxes and decided on a "modular" design. This would incorporate different materials and a range of hole sizes. I hoped that by observing and photographing nesting activity in the box, I might get some idea of preferences that any local bees might show for this type of structure. I could then (potentially), modify the design to make it more "attractive".

Red Mason Bees are one of the bees more readily attracted to artificial nest boxes. I had been seeing the occasional male investigating and roosting in the box (see image top left) but nothing much else. Activity seems rather slow here in the West Midlands.

This week, with the somewhat warmer weather, female Red Mason Bees seem much more apparent in the area. I was hoping that some would find the nest box and was not disappointed. A couple seem to have definitely taken up residence and I managed a photograph (middle left) of this female about to leave a hole. I'm not absolutely sure that they are actively nesting, as I haven't seen any arriving with pollen. It could be that they are just roosting in the holes.

Getting back to bee hotel design, it was apparent from my "research" that holes of 7-8mm diameter were favoured by Red Mason Bees but to ensure suitable habitats for other solitary hymenoptera that may use it (Leaf-cutter Bees, White-faced Bees etc, and some solitary wasps), holes from between 2mm to 10mm diameter should be provided and should be 5-6 inches (13-15cm) deep.

The photograph bottom left shows the design I came up with. Basically, it's a box with an aluminium-covered roof and nine removeable wooden blocks each 3" x 3" x6" (approx. 8cm x 8cm x 15cm).

Block A: Mixture - 7mm & 8mm holes
Block B: Mixture - 2mm to 10mm holes
Block C: Soft mortar with 2mm to 10mm holes
Block D: 2" hole with paper "bee tubes"
Block E: 2" hole with bamboo stems.

The box was jointly designed with Kate MacRae (WildlifeKate) and was constructed by my brother-in-law Phil, who's an engineer. The box is positioned on a south-facing wall, 6 feet (1.8 metres) from the ground.

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