Winter can be a short-lived season in Brisbane. In preparation for the warmer spring months when bees will become active again, now is the perfect time to create a bee hotel in your backyard. It’s a great family activity connecting kids (and adults!) with the natural world, and won’t cost much to make.

What is a bee hotel?

A bee hotel is an artificial nesting site for bees, insects and other pollinators. It is usually made up of an assortment of nesting materials with holes drilled in them, such as different types of timber and mud brick. The holes are used by native bees as a type of cave for them to nest in.

Photo credit: G. Craig

Photo credit: G. Craig

Why create a bee hotel?

One of the main reasons to create a native bee hotel in your backyard, courtyard or apartment balcony is to connect with and observe nature. You’re also doing the bees a favour by offering them more nesting sites in urban areas, and your garden may also benefit from having more bees around.

Photo credit: Giorgio Venturieri

Photo credit: Giorgio Venturieri

What materials do you need?

The most basic of bee hotels can be made by bundling together some short lengths of bamboo and putting them into a box or frame. More elaborate versions can be created by drilling holes of varying sizes into different types of timbers and even mud brick. Mud brick is an attractive choice of nesting site to those native bees preferring to nest in dry soil. You can read more about how to construct your hotel here.

There are between 100-200 different species of native bees in South East Queensland, and just like people, they’ve all got different preferences. That’s why the best bee hotels offer different nesting materials.

Photo credit: Giorgio Venturieri

Photo credit: Giorgio Venturieri

Expert advice:

We asked Brisbane’s own local bee expert Dr. Tim Heard for some advice on bee hotels, and these are his top tips:

  • Some people like to create very large and elaborate bee hotels that become a focal point of a backyard. It is actually more beneficial to create smaller single structures and scatter them around your garden. Large structures can attract natural enemies of the bee such as wasps, ants and some bacteria. Large hotels are a bit like keeping all your eggs in one basket.
  • When creating a bee hotel you need to be providing a diversity of nesting sites. This diversity can be achieved through offering different materials and hole sizes for the bees to nest in, but also by offering different nest site locations. Some species of bees may prefer a sunny spot, while others like a darker cooler location. Scattering smaller bee hotels throughout your garden offers diversity.
  • One of the main things people can do to help the native bee population is avoid the use of pesticides in their gardens.

For ideas on attracting bees to your garden through foliage and the use of bee hotels, Dr. Heard recommends this fact sheet by the Valley Bees.

Interested in learning more about native bees or perhaps keeping native stingless bees? Dr. Heard’s book, The Australian Native Bee Book, can be purchased through his website here.

If you liked this article, then we recommend you check out our Community Spotlight on Jack Wilston-Stone from Bee One Third. He also does workshops and teaches Brisbane locals about keeping bees – check him out!