Making nesting supports for wild bees

A tiny bee house
A tiny bee house

Due to increasing industrialization, wild bees are finding fewer and fewer sources of food and suitable nesting sites. With this homemade nesting aid you help the useful insects to settle in your garden. To ensure that wild bees settle permanently in your garden, you should also provide a “balanced meal” of nectar-producing flowers.

With a nesting aid, you support species that build brood chambers in hollow tunnels. In these, the females deposit one egg each as well as pollen stores as larval food. The development to the hatching bee takes up to one year. All you need for the insect hotel is a tin can and a few bamboo sticks.

Making a nesting aid for wild bees: Step by step

Shorten bamboo sticks

Use a handsaw to shorten the bamboo sticks to the length of the tin can. If you use bamboo sticks of different thicknesses, this is not a problem but an advantage. Since the respective wild bees prefer different sized holes as their habitat, you thereby provide a nesting aid in the can for several species at the same time.

Push back the pith of the bamboo stalks

Now use a chopstick to carefully push the pith of the bamboo stalks back as far as possible. It will later serve as the back wall of the nest tubes. If the stalks are hollow throughout, replace the pith with a little absorbent cotton and use it to close the rear opening of the bamboo. Make sure that the holes are clean, smooth and free of splinters, otherwise the wild bees can easily injure their sensitive wings when they crawl in backwards.

Insert bamboo stalks into can

Insert the prepared stalks into the can with the open side facing forward and select a dry, warm and wind-protected location for the wild bee nesting aid. A southeast-facing location is ideal for this. Also important: To ensure that the wild bees find enough nectar and pollen in the garden, as many unfilled flowering plants as possible should grow there.

Wild bee nesting help: why scissors are not a suitable tool

Wild bees like it cozy. If the bamboo poles of the nesting aid have cracks, the beneficial insects will not move into the cavities. Shortening with pruning shears is quick, but it inevitably creates cracks that can also cause wild bees to injure their wings. A small hand saw is a better choice for building the wild bee hotel.

wild bee in a drill hole in wood
wild bee in a drill hole in wood

How to build wild bee nesting boxes from bricks and hardwood?

Extruded interlocking bricks from building material stores also provide ideal nesting tubes for wild bees and insects. When the clay is compressed at the intersections, enlarge the holes with a drill to the actual diameter. Again, seal the ends of the tunnels with absorbent cotton. In hardwood blocks, for example, of oak, ash or beech, drill different passages (length 5 to 10 centimeters (2 to 4 in), 2 to 9 millimeters in diameter) into the longitudinal wood, not into the end wood. The passages are smoothed with a file and the wood surface with sandpaper so that the bees do not tear off their wings.

Nesting aids for mining bees

More than half of our wild bee species nest in the ground, including many endangered species. Mining bees can therefore be supported far more with sparsely vegetated ground surfaces, embankments or sand mounds than with insect houses. An old sandbox, sandy joints between paving slabs, a mound of natural sand, clay embankments or loess walls are nesting aids for sand bees. Prerequisites: The area should be largely free of plants, undisturbed and sunny.

Sunny dry stone walls as nesting sites for wild bees

In dry stone walls, the individual natural stones are stacked on top of each other without mortar, leaving cavities between the stones. These small niches are not only interesting as hiding places and quarters for lizards or toads, but also serve as nesting places for wild bees. Mason bees got their name because they often build their nesting chambers in cracks and crevices of such stone works. It is ideal if you plant some of the wall with valuable nectar and pollen donors, such as bluecress, rockweed or catmint.

Dry deadwood for wood bees

Wild bee species such as the carpenter bee gnaw tunnels in dead wood in which they build nesting chambers. Dead tree trunks in a sunny location are ideal as nesting wood. You can place pieces of trees and dead branches on dry ground. These can also be tied to trees at an angle. Pith stem dwellers gnaw their nesting tunnels into dry, solitary and vertically standing woody shoots of blackberries, thistles, mullein or roses, for example. Always prune your plants back only in spring.

Drinking places for bees

Bees need to drink, too. Honey bees not only quench their own thirst with water, but they also use it to feed their offspring and cool the hive on hot days by spreading water on the combs. Support them with a homemade bee drinker. A water dish with stones on which the bees can land is suitable as a drinking place. Change the water daily. If you have a natural stone fountain, you can often observe honey bees on the wet edges on warm summer days. They are particularly fond of drinking the mineral-enriched water. A piece of wood floating on the water saves bees from drowning.

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