Creating a home for bees, in your garden

This short guide is not intended for honeybees as honeybees are considered domesticated as they live in hives, and are cared for by bee keepers. This is a short guide about creating a home for the other 250+ species of wild bee including, Mason bees, & Solitary bees, that are found throughout the U.K. Bumble bees are slightly different in what they prefer, please see below for more information on creating a home for them.

A home-made bee house, under a quiet, south facing bush in our garden

This bee house consists of bamboo sticks with 4-11mm diameter holes. If the holes are larger, the bees will not use them. Bear this in mind when considering buying one of the many designs that have recently sprung up in garden centers and nurseries, and Of course, just allowing a quiet sunny area in your garden to become naturalised again will become a bumble bee haven.

A better bee house

A self built bee house

This bee house took only an hour to put together with some spare wood and corrugated iron sheet that we had laying around. The most important aspect of the house is that it keeps the bees dry, regardless of how cold the weather gets.

We have used some old house bricks at the bottom generously spaced to allow the bees access in and around them, and blocks of wood with holes up to 10mm drilled into them and a couple of old bits of pipe that we have filled with short lenghts of bamboo canes of varying widths, all of which will be useful as nesting sites for our native wild bees to make a home in. The upper tube (empty in this photo) is stuffed with dry grass etc for use as a nesting material and we then sited it in a south-facing, sheltered position on our allotment.

A home for bumble bees

Tree bumblebees, having taken up residence in an empty bird box

Tree bumblebees, having taken up residence in an empty bird box

Bumble Bees differ in their requirements to Mason bees & Solitary bees in that they create a small social colony often within disused bird boxes like in the photograph above. Like honeybees the colony is formed by a queen. They will build comb for rearing young and storing nectar, however a bumble bee colony will only survive a single season, the queen will hibernate over winter either in the ground in empty mouse holes or the like or as in the above photograph, the will frequently use an empty bird box!