A Buzz about Bee Houses

Yesterday I posted some pictures of homes for solitary bees and wasps on Twitter and Facebook and they seemed to go down a treat. Therefore I’ve decided to write a blog post summarising the whole process.

“Bees, wasps and ants are among the most important animals on the planet and are essential for the health and survival of countless other species – ourselves included. We ignore these fascinating and indispensable creatures at our peril.” – George McGavin

There are over 500 species of bees and wasps in Britain, sadly most of these species are in trouble. Only by studying these fascinating insects can be learn more about them and how to conserve them. There are many reasons why many species of bees and wasps are in decline in Britain, one of these reasons is due to a lack of suitable nesting sites. Unsurprisingly most solitary bees and wasps live solitary lives and not in communal nests. Many of these species either nest in the ground or in plant material (aerial nesters). Bee houses aim to recreate more natural substrates in which bees and wasps may nest and provide a place for them to breed. I have installed lots of these ‘bee houses’ in my own garden.

Firstly I have commercial bee houses made out of bamboo tubes. These are on the side of the shed facing into the morning sun (it is always best to face bee houses into the morning sun). These were the first structures for bee and wasp nesting that I installed in the garden and have attracted mason bees (Osmia species) and leafcutter bees (Megachile species).

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The next house I installed I made myself out of decking and bricks. Each layer has different things in it including bamboo tubes, wooden tubes, paper straws, plant stems and glass tubes (so you can see what has nested inside). There is also dead wood with holes drilled in it. This may attract species that don’t inhabit the bamboo tubes.

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The final structure I have built lots look a glorified sandpit, which is essentially what it is. Many bee and wasp species nest in the ground, favouring softer sandier substrates so I am hoping this may attract them. I have not tried this before so it may not attract anything, except the local cats, so we will see!

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All of these structures face into the morning sun where possible and should attract a wide variety of solitary bees and wasps. These species do not sting unless you touch them and only then it is a last resort and doesn’t hurt. As someone who has picked up many solitary bees, I have only been stung fairly infrequently and it only makes me jump, allowing the bee to fly off. Apart from the conservation value of these structures, it is also great fun to watch the comings and goings of these amazing animals which are more effective pollinators than honey bees and are also effective pest controllers. I dread to think how many hours I have spent watching these amazing animals and would encourage others to do the same!

Here are some of the species that I have encouraged to nest in my urban garden:

Osmia caerulescens male

Osmia caerulescens male

Osmia lignaria female

Osmia leaiana female

Osmia bicornis male

Osmia bicornis male

Megachile ligniseca female

Megachile ligniseca female

Megachile willughbiella male

Megachile willughbiella male

Megachile ligniseca female

Megachile ligniseca female

For more information on Bees, Wasps and Ants, please see the Bees, Wasps and Ants Recording Society website and Facebook page.

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9 responses to “A Buzz about Bee Houses

  1. They look so cute peeping out of their tubes! Lots of great ideas here.

  2. Brian Eversham

    Great account – makes us all know we can do it at home, too.

  3. Vivian Russell

    Fab pics &. Lovely blog. Let us know how the sand pit experiment goes

  4. Very interesting Ryan, hope to make some

  5. Looking forward to seeing the Andrena/Lasioglossum/Halictus you get in your sand pit! If you need help with the ID I just finished a PhD looking at ground-nesting bees in apple orchards.

  6. Pingback: Spring Bees To Look Out For | Ryan Clark Ecology

  7. Pingback: Wildlife On Your Doorstep | Ryan Clark Ecology

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