We recently learned how to make a bee hotel from a log. Well, making them is straightforward. If you see one, you’ll know how to make one. Aside from discovering the mere existence of cavity-nesting bees, and the fact that solitary bees make up 90% of all bee species, the biggest takeaway I had from this whole bee hotel building experience is the deeper understanding of bees gained.
When you learn about solitary bees, you too will want to jump on a project like this making a bee hotel out of a tree log. We are still currently in the midst of building different bee hotels. Understanding the vital role solitary bees play in supporting the world’s food supply and security makes this tree log bee hotel project all the more satisfying.
We’re currently exploring different natural materials to build our next one, so I will update this post with future bee hotels we make!
Before we go into how to build a bee hotel from a log with our step-by-step directions, lets review all the reasons why its advantageous for everyone involved to build one or more of these beneficial DIY garden project structures.
Table of Contents[Hide][Show]
What is a Bee Hotel?
Hotels are man-made structures designed to provide temporary accommodation for people. BEE hotels are all the same, but for designed bees (and free of charge). A bee hotel can be made from any materials as long as it ends up providing shelter and habitat to solitary bees and other cavity-nesting insects that come to stay as well.
Many call them bee houses, but hotel is more accurate.
Although some people may live in hotels, they’re not aren’t designed to be a permanent accommodation.
Solitary bees use the tree log bee hotels in a similar manner, as a temporary shelter.
For the female solitary bee, it’s a place to lay her eggs and build her nest.
For the larva, they’re kept safe until the day they chew themselves out as adults.
And while bee hotels can be made from anything, natural building materials are better for the bees and the environment. A bee hotel from a log is especially advantageous.
Here’s a bit more information on who they are and how they operate.
What are Solitary Bees?
Out of all bee species in existence, around 90% of them are solitary bees.
These bees don’t serve a colony or queen.
Instead of joining a hive, they make their own nests.
And you won’t find any honey in them because they don’t make any.
When a female solitary bee encounters a suitable habitat, like a bee hotel made from a tree log, she will build her nest with it. She’ll lay a single egg in each cell (or hotel room), then make bee bread for her larva, which is a mixture of nectar and pollen. It serves as the larva’s sustenance into adulthood.
Once ready, the female solitary bee will seal each cell hole’s entrance with chewed up mud and leaves, essentially locking the bee hotel room doors, one-by-one.
As for the larva, they eventually become adults and chew themselves out. Immediately afterwards, foraging for native flowers.
However, just because they don’t produce honey as members of a honeybee colony doesn’t mean solitary bees just frolic around all day for no good reason. Their tireless pollination maintains the Earth’s biodiversity and food production systems. Their meanderings to and fro through your garden and beyond are absolutely vital for the health of our local and worldwide ecosystems.
Chances are that when you learn the ways that solitary bees benefit us and the Earth, you’ll also want to provide them shelter and habitat.
3 Reasons Why You Should Make a Bee Hotel
1. For the Earth and the Bees.
Tree log bee hotels are great for your garden. But set natural garden pollination benefits aside, when you make a tree log bee hotel and put it up amongst native flowers, you provide the most important insect pollinator in the world with food and habitat.
You support your locale’s distinct solitary bee population.
Solitary bees keep our physical realm’s diverse ecosystems balanced. And bee hotels offer them perfect nesting sites, something that can come in clutch for solitary bees who have trouble finding a suitable nesting site.
In this National Wildlife Federation (NWF) article titled, “The Buzz About Bee Houses for Your Garden,” a bee house-making, passionate amateur entomologist talks about how important it is to make these nesting sites for solitary bees, due to their natural scarcity.
Solitary bees can’t excavate their own holes, and their natural nest sites–woodpecker holes, hollow tips of broken tree branches and tiny tunnels made by wood-boring beetles, for example–are not exactly abundant. So the insects readily accept substitutesAmateur entomologist, Taren Urquhart – National Wildlife Federation
Up to 80% of the world’s flowering plants rely on pollination from bees. However, many native bee species are in decline and facing extinction.
The world’s insects are hurtling down the path to extinction, threatening a “catastrophic collapse of nature’s ecosystems.– from this The Guardian article on insect population decline.
What’s going to happen to these plants who rely on bees when their exclusive or main pollinators disappear on them?
From the this Modern Farmer article, titled “Farmers Can Help Save Bees by Planting Flowers.”
One of the most important things you can do to support pollinators is to provide them with the proper habitat. A flower-rich landscape, free of pesticides, is the foundation of pollinator conservation.– Modern Farmer article, “Farmers Can Help Save Bees by Planting Flowers.”
2. For Your Garden
Most, if not all plants, need to be pollinated.
Pollination is not just fascinating natural history. It is an essential ecological survival function. Without pollinators, the human race and all of earth’s terrestrial ecosystems would not survive. Of the 1,400 crop plants grown around the world, i.e., those that produce all of our food and plant-based industrial products, almost 80% require pollination by animals.– This article from the Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture website.
Gardens get naturally pollinated by bats, bees, birds, butterflies, moths, beetles, other insects, animals/mammals, water, wind and even flower-to-flower. (source)
When it comes to the the insect pollinators category, bees are the highest percentage contributing insects.
3. For Friends & Family
Enjoying our world’s key pollinators with up-close observations is for anyone and everyone. Solitary bees are non-aggressive. They will mind their own business while pollinating your garden. If you homeschool or have children you do activities with, this is a perfect activity that will also teach delayed gratification.
When you learn how to make a bee hotel from a log and why you’re doing it, you pick up a new, productive and family-fun activity that completely submerses you in nature while educating you at the same time.
And the best part? It makes you an active participant in support of the plight of the bees.
Making a bee hotel can help young ones make sense of the world and how it’s supposed to work. It can give them a sense of importance in their ability to actually help by making these and planting native flowers for these bees.
Better Harvests For Your Family
Each species has its own important and specific roles within its ecosystem that another cannot replace. On top of that, solitary bees pollinate better than honeybees. So they are more effective than honeybees at making your home garden beautiful and more productive.
Below are the step-by-step directions on how to make a bee hotel from a log.
How to Make a Bee Hotel from a Log
With Step-By-Step Directions
The current jalopy of a bee hotel you see featured on this How To Make A Bee Hotel article is perfect for explaining the concept and showing how to make it, but its wood may not be hard enough. We just kept going with it. Future bee hotels will be added to this post.
- Untreated lumber: tree log section or any block of wood such as a piece of firewood.
- Power drill with drill bits ranging in size from 2mm to 10mm.
- Sandpaper or sanding chisel
- Saw or axe
- Native flowering plants or seeds
- A will to grow a bunch of stuff for your future bees
Step 1. Tree Log Selection
TOP 3 Factors For Choosing The Right Wood Type
Selecting the right log or wooden block is the crucial first step for building a bee hotel from a log. The wooden block or tree log chosen must pass these three criteria:
- It must be resistant to decay
- It must be completely untreated
- You want it to be naturally-sourced
The Best Woods
There are many great wood types for making bee hotels from, including hardwoods and softwoods. Here are some of the best wood types to use for this project.
- Black Locust
Step 2. Drill Cavities for the Bee Hotel Rooms
Holes for the bee hotel rooms
Solitary bee species come in different sizes. Drilling multiple hole sizes, both diameter and depth, can help attract a good variety of them.
Hole Size Recommendations:
- Hole diameter: 2mm to 10mm
- Hole depth: 10cm
Step 3. Drill Hole For The Post
The easiest and fastest way to get one of these up is to use a simple wooden post into the underside of the tree log. This helps you avoid using any metal on the hotel’s final result (outside of the tools needed to drill the holes).
While the holes will need to be drilled with a metal drill, you can get it very sturdy with a simple post stuck onto its bottom-side.
I got this bee hotel post idea from this Grow It Build It blog post. They do a great job with theirs. Solid blog overall.
Here’s what the face looked like after we were done.
Lessons learned up to this point:
- It’s best to use a variety of smaller drill bits, instead of mostly 10mm.
- Wood hardness is just as important as it being untreated.
- Manual drilling works, but takes a long time.
- Different solitary bee species will use different hole diameters and depths.
Step 4. Make A Post & STICK IT IN THE HOTEL’s UNDERSIDE
Here’s our wooden post held by my sidekick.
I shaved off the blunt edges of the stick’s end, making a dull spear. This lets you get it in deep and snug. Our hole was almost too small for the pole. It took some hammering to make it wedge inside, and it’s not going anywhere now.
This pole will snap before it comes out of the log.
Step 5. Put It In The Ground
Down to your armpit is a safe depth for putting up bamboo structures, and perfect for keeping this heavy log up and sturdy, without needing to lay cement in there or anything.
Dig a post hole down to “armpit depth.”
Place It 3-5 Feet Off The Ground
The recommended height to have it off the ground is 3 to 5 feet. Whether you have it on a post, up on a shelf, or ledge of some sort it does not matter.
I found this wooden pole on a hike. I hope its strength stands up to the task of supporting this heavy tree log bee hotel.
Position it tilted down
Rain can become an issue for the nest and its cells. Positioning it at a downward angle should be enough to safeguard it.
Unless you’re putting a roof on it, you’ll want to angle it downwards to prevent any water logging situations from occurring.
Step 6. Plant native flowers
Create a habitat for solitary bees
Planting native flowers creates a habitat the solitary bees will relish to be in. This is the key to making your bee hotel more fruitful.
With over 20,000 known species of solitary bees (4,000 in the U.S.), most geographic areas have unique species to them. Planting native flowering plants will give your local solitary bee species that are unique to you, exactly what they need for nesting and pollination.
This gives your ample natural pollination from bees in your garden all year long.
In this ABC Everyday article on bee hotels, Dr. Katja Hogendoorn, a bee expert from the University of Adelaide shares why planting native flowers is more beneficial for solitary bees than making them bee hotels from tree logs or blocks of wood.
I don’t promote bee hotels because bee restaurants are much more important. The key is definitely local native plants — ones with nectar-producing flowers, such as banksias, melaleucas, grevilleas and eucalypts.– Bee expert Dr. Hoogendoorn
PDF: How To Make A Bee Hotel From A Log
- 1 Power Drill For drilling in the cavities that bees will nest in.
- 5 Drill Bits (2mm to 10mm) This range of drill sizes accommodates various solitary bee species
- 1 Saw or Axe For cutting the log if needed.
- 1 Mounting Stick For propping up the bee hotel once it's ready
- 1 Natural Sealant Optional. Some use on wood's exterior (not in or around the cavities).
- 1 piece Sandpaper To smooth out the drilled holes.
- 1 piece Untreated Log or Wooden Block The bee hotel's foundation. Must be rot resistant.
- 1 coating Natural Sealant Optional. Some use on wood's exterior (not in or around the cavities).
- Choose an untreated and rot-resistant wooden log or block
- Drill cavities for the bee hotel rooms
- Drill hole for the post
- Make a post and stick it in the bee hotel's underside
- Put it in the ground, positioned 3-5 feet up and angled downwards (for flooding).
- Plant native flowers all around for your local solitary bee species.
- Wood Selection: Must be untreated.
- Hole Sizes: it’s best to provide a range, from 2mm to 10mm.
- Bee Hotel Location: Sunny spot facing south or southeast is best.
- Maintenance: You should give it a look at least every month or two to check for parasites and disease.
- Planting for Bees! This is the key! You’ll want to plant native flowers all around your bee hotel in order to please all the varieties of bee species you’re attracting with the different sized cavities (from 2mm to 10mm).
5 Types of Solitary Bees You May Encounter
Depending on the size of your log and the number of cell holes you drill into it, you’ll encounter different native bee species there to inhabit it.
solitary bee species you’ll find in YOUR LOG HOTEL
- Mason Bees (Osmia species)
- Leafcutter Bees (Megachile species)
- Carpenter Bees (Xylocopa species)
- Carder Bees (Anthidium species)
- Cuckoo & Nomad Bees (Nomada species) – cleptoparasitic bees that will lay eggs inside of other bees’ nests.
It’s a wonderful thing to see how each bee species operates differently in nature.
Orchard Mason Bees use mud masonry to construct their nests while Wool Carter Bees (Anthidium manicatum) use tiny plant hairs to construct their nests.
Then you have Alfalfa Leafcutter Bees that will build theirs just as the name suggests, using cut leaves and flower petals.
Why Make It From A Tree Log Or Wooden Block?
There are several reasons for choosing wood material, whether it be a tree log section or any hard wood block. A bee hotel doesn’t have to be made from a tree log. It can be made using any materials, including bamboo, bricks, cement, or any medium-to-hard untreated wood pieces.
Bees will make their nests anywhere, but wood is a natural material, so it’s likely more agreeable to them. There are clear benefits of using wood for the hotel, over plastic or metal. The log you choose becomes one of the most important steps in learning how to make a bee hotel from a log. It should be a sturdy log or any kind of wooden block. The main thing is that the wood used to make the bee hotel must be untreated.
Why Tree Logs Are Best For Making Bee Hotels
- Wood breathes and lets moisture out.
- It’s long-lasting when maintained.
- Wood’s insulation provides a natural temperature regulation.
- Using wood makes it a sustainable and environmentally friendly bee hotel build.
- Wood blends in naturally with the environment, helping to protect your garden’s solitary bees against their predators.
- Easy drilling – Wood is easy to drill (for the bee hotel “rooms” or cells).
What Are The Best Alternatives To Wood For Building Material?
The best alternative to wood for making a bee hotel is bamboo. Often associated with wood because of its similar properties and uses, this fastest-growing plant on earth is actually a type of grass and not a wood. Bamboo hollows are the perfect alternative to wood for making bee hotels. You don’t get the same insulation, so perhaps best in warmer climates where it most naturally grows, but bamboo’s natural hollow tube structure makes it a perfect natural and sustainable nesting material for solitary bees.
Other good alternatives include bricks, cinder blocks, ceramic and clay. Each with their pros and cons when compared to wood for making bee hotels. For example, clay and ceramic may last longer or be easier to maintain than wood, however they won’t breathe as well or provide as good of insulation, potentially creating moisture or temperature troubles for the residing solitary bees.
The worst alternatives to wood for a bee’s nesting material would be plastic or metal. The plastic would need to be food safe if that’s the route you’re taking, but a metal bee hotel in direct sunshine will toast your bees if they’ve managed to nest there prior to an oncoming heat swell.
Do Other Insects Besides Bees Stay in Bee Hotels?
Yes. Some good, some bad.
It’s mostly solitary bee species that you’ll find in your bee hotels, but other insects do come and stay in their own cells, mostly coexisting without issue right alongside them.
These friend to the solitary bee will also help keep aphid levels low in your garden.
Ladybugs (ladybirds) and Lacewings are known to lay eggs inside of bee hotels.
Ground beetles use bee hotels for breeding. These help gardens by preying on caterpillars and snails.
- Butterflies (if larger holes or cavities on the log are made)
- Woodlice (Rollie Pollies)
- Solitary wasps
Protect Your Bee Hotel From Potential Threats
On the flip side of this, predators and parasites can move in next door and start causing problems. This list includes other potential threats to solitary bees:
- Arachnid mites: Feed on bee larvae
- Extreme weather conditions
- Fungal diseases
- Parasitic flies: They feed solitary bee larvae to their larvae.
- Parasitic bees: Just like the parasitic flies, some bees are parasitic and do the exact same thing for their larvae. Cuckoo bees are one of them.
- Wasps: Some wasps known as “bee hunters” and “bee wolves” prey solely on solitary bees. They go as far as taking them from their nests after knocking them out with a sting, then flying them back to their wasp nest to serve the stung-dead solitary bee to the wasp larva.
- Woodpeckers and other birds
- Pesticides: Taints their food supply
Wasps In Your Hotel?
Cavity-nesting wasps range from beneficial and non-aggressive to stinger-happy and highly defensive.
Potter and solitary wasps are two beneficial cavity-nesting wasps that can make homes from your bee hotel. These two wasps are only ever going to sting if very clearly disturbed.
Yellowjackets are also cavity nesting wasps. But these you don’t want around, whether they help with your garden’s pest problems or not.
What Does Pollination Do For Your Garden?
No pollination means no harvests. No fruits or lettuce to pick in the morning for breakfast. No nuts or many flowers you wouldnt see anymore without pollination of some sort.
Pollination is essential in gardens. It’s when pollen from a plant’s male parts (flower anthers) get transferred to a plant’s female parts (the stigma). Some plants self-pollinate. Eggplant, Legumes such as peas and most bean types, lettuce plants, tomato plants, pepper plants among others. The other main type of pollination is cross-pollination. This is when pollen from one flower can pollinate another by accepting its pollen. The result is the same for both cross and self-pollinators: fruit and seed production.
However, cross-pollination helps build genetic diversity in your garden plants. This in itself has many benefits that range from more hearty plants to better tasting produce.
The Benefits of Increased Natural Pollination Are Vast
- Increased yields
- Better fruit
- Better leaves on herbs
- Increased genetic diversity
- More resilient plants
Through learning how to make a bee hotel from a log, you can really help your organic garden out.
Are solitary bees more important than honeybees?
Let’s compare solitary bees to honeybees.
But before going into any honeybee vs solitary bee comparison, it’s worth noting that all bee species are extremely important for our Earth’s ecosystems. There isn’t one that’s better because each is suited to something specific.
Solitary bees, if looking purely at pollination numbers, can reach more plant species within a day versus the honeybee.
A better pollination style and smaller foraging radius help the solitary bee reach more flowers per day. The close-to-home foraging lets them return home to drop off loads much faster, whereas honeybees can have a as far as 2-mile foraging radii.
Pollen Collection Comparison
Set travel times aside, solitary bees also visit more flowers because of how they collect pollen. They get in there closer with the flowers’ reproductive parts, making for better pollen transfer success rates. Maybe it’s because they enjoy their lives instead of being mindless worker-bee drones… they get a little more pleasure out life.
The pollen on solitary bees sits loosely as compared to the honeybee’s packed buckets. It falls off easier, making for more efficient pollination. Honey bees collect honey into their “corbiculae” which are also known as “pollen baskets.” These sit on their back legs.
After flying down into a flower and coming into contact with its “anthers”, pollen grains stick to the honeybee’s hairs. They wipe this pollen off, mix in saliva and nectar to make little pollen balls. The honeybee will then shove that down into his basket, making room for the next.
Honeybees also are known for their “flower contancy” behavior. Solitary bees do not do this. Flower constancy means they revisit the same flower. For the honeybee, this may be necessary as their pollen doesn’t transfer as easily as the solitary bee’s.
These characteristics of honeybees make them less efficient pollinators than the bees that will be staying at your Bee Hotels.
More Ways To Help The Bees
If you can’t get honeybees going with any type of hive box, but still want to help the world’s bee situation. Or if you’ve already built a bee hotel from a log, and want to do more for our world’s main pollinators.
It’s likely you do not use man-made chemical-based herbicides or pesticides, but if you do, stopping this will also help the bees. Even natural pesticides hurt bees
- Stop all pesticide or herbicide usage. Even natural pesticides hurt bees.
- Plant a pollinator-friendly garden.
- Plant a bee garden.
- Plant trees for bees.
- Leave water bowls and pots out to make bee baths. The water should be maintained fresh though. A naturally filtrated by plant or fish pond or water basin would be ideal.
- Protect ground-nesting bees.
- Leave long stems from dead flowers up, don’t chop or pull out because cavity-nesting bees need these.
- Support local beekeepers: Buy local honey only, not those from the big box stores. Many local beekeepers will also have things like beeswax, or honey-related natural products for sale.
Are You Helping Your Local Solitary Bees Yet?
We have an empty beehive box sitting under a Longan tree, awaiting any wild bee’s arrival. However, there aren’t any pheromones that could make female solitary bees want to build their nest there.
But they WILL go to a Bee Hotel made from a tree log!
We didn’t have a place for them before, but now we do. Thanks to the little bee who landed on my arm, we now will have plenty of shelter for solitary bees of all types here in our backyard garden.
Anyone can do it!
The best part about this whole bee situation is that anyone can take part in helping!
You don’t need a garden to help the world’s main pollinators by building them a wooden bee hotel.
We thank you very much for coming by our blog!
Please come back in the future to share with us your bee hotels!