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Creating a Native Bee Hotel

By Karen Retra, Seed Savers Albury-Wodonga

Everyone’s heard about putting up nest boxes for birds and mammals, right? Last summer we did something similar in our backyard, but with a view to providing homes for native bees and other critters.

I’d had ‘make a bee hotel’ on my list of things to do ‘someday’ for yonks, but hadn’t quite got around to it. In recent years my interest was furthered by the designs and pictures provided by groups like the Australian Native Bee Research Centre’s excellent publication Native Bees of the Sydney Region, their website (http://www.aussiebee.com.au) and the Australian Native Bees e-group.

While bee-watching at our place, I realised that we already had a lot of artificial nest sites for native bees in the form of the re-used timbers that make up structures all through our backyard. Their cracks and crevices, plus empty nail and screw holes, are all of interest to a whole host of critters. Bees, wasps, spiders, earwigs, and many more. The more I looked, the more I saw. I hadn’t taken the time to pay attention previously.

To supplement these many holes, we made a native bee hotel. It’s a wooden planter box, mounted sideways on a pole, about 1.6 metres off the ground. Inside are hardwood offcuts drilled with holes of varying diameters between 4mm and 9mm. The holes aren’t quite the recommended depth (apparently the bees prefer 150mm or more), however nor are the holes elsewhere in the backyard that appear to be functioning as homes. Ours are the length of an average drill bit! In the gaps are lengths of bamboo. And to give some protection from the elements, we gave it a roof using a scrap of laserlite.

Within a couple of hours of putting it up there was interest from potential residents. Quite a few native bees and some wasps checked it out, and some moved in. When my identification skills are better I hope to let you know more precisely which species they are. Backyard ecology – I love it!

There are some more pictures and some other insect homes created by friends of mine on our blog: http://bit.ly/beehotel.

If you come across a native bee that’s looking for a wood nesting hole, feel free to direct them to our backyard. Or add to the critter habitat at your place and you, too, can enjoy watching to see who moves in.