Bee House Essentials: 5 Tips for a Happy Garden Hive

Gardening is most satisfying when you take the time to look and observe. The gnat on that yarrow plant might actually be a type of native bee pollinating the flowers.

Small, harmless bees can be quite entertaining as they flit about and feed on nectar and pollen.

In the case of bees, what’s pleasing to the eye is pleasing to the earth, as well. Research has shown that the presence of bees increases yields across many types of crops. Experts say bees are more efficient at pollinating native crops than honey bees.  

Keeping a bee house also adds to the overall biodiversity of your garden. Bees are part of a complex web of life, and a diverse ecosystem is more resilient to changes and disturbances.

Many bee species are solitary and do not form hives. Providing a bee house offers nesting sites for native bees, which may not have access to suitable nesting places in urban or suburban environments.

Additionally, bees worldwide face threats such as habitat loss, pesticide exposure, and diseases. By providing a bee house, you contribute to the conservation of these important pollinators.

Small, harmless bees can be quite entertaining as they flit about and feed on nectar and pollen.
Their dainty presence adds enchantment to the surroundings.

Welcoming Bees Into Your Garden

Of course, other gardeners do more than just observe. They establish nesting tubes for bees. You should, too, if you keep a garden. The artificial shelters can be an effective way to draw certain bee species to your plants.

They are solitary. They don’t live in hives. Instead, they will gather in bundled tubes, one to a tunnel, to shelter and raise their young.

That’s why bee houses are wooden, birdhouse-like structures containing hollow reeds or cardboard tubes. When properly supervised, these little bee shelters are the perfect habitat for lone, hole-nesting native bees.

Below are a few tips on managing a bee house for your garden.

1. Provide proper nesting holes.

Whether you make your own bee house or buy one that’s ready-made, make sure the tubes are removable for good bee house sanitation. Otherwise, fungal diseases can accumulate within the aperture and sicken the bees.

The nesting holes should be between four to 10 millimetres in diameter and about six inches in length.

It would help if you avoided bamboo and plastic straws. These do not wick enough moisture, which may cause problems for developing bees.

Natural, locally available nesting materials are best. Many gardeners use wood. Cardboard tubes and lake reeds in the right size are also available online.

Natural, locally available nesting materials are best for a bee house.
Natural, locally available nesting materials are best for a bee house.

2. Protect the nesting materials from harsh weather and birds.

Bees need a place to live that’s dry and safe. The ideal bee house will have a solid outer structure with a two-to-three-inch overhang. This will protect nesting materials from harsh weather.

If birds habitually raid the nesting holes, find a wire mesh and wrap it around the bee house.

Do not install the protective cover flush against the apertures. Bees will need some space for landing and taking off.

If birds make a habit of raiding the nesting holes, find a wire mesh and wrap it around the bee house.

In case nesting holes are frequently targeted by birds, consider securing the bee house by encircling it with a wire mesh.

3. Make sure your bee house is not too large.

Insect hotels incorporate bee tubes, too, but they offer materials and habitats for a wider range of invertebrates. Their breadth of function and size might make managing the bee tubes a little more problematic.

The tubes will require regular upkeep. You will need to change them each year so consider the time you are willing to devote to care and preservation.

Some experts actually advise against large bee houses because the concentration of bees will likely invite disease and parasites.

Some experts actually advise against large bee houses.
Certain experts caution against the use of sizable bee houses. (Photo: Paulo O/Flickr)

4. Ensure proper location and orientation.

Your bee house should face the morning sun. Hole-nesting bees need the sun’s warmth for energy.

Most native bees prefer some afternoon shade, but too much shade could attract hole-nesting wasps, as well.

Solitary wasps prey on pests like caterpillars, grubs, and aphids. However, they may also eat bee pupae.

Wild, hole-nesting bees need the sun’s warmth for energy.
Bees that nest in holes rely on the sun’s warmth for energy. (Photo: Gailhampshire/Flickr)

5. Protect bee larvae during winter.

Make sure you have easy access to your bee house. You will need to remove filled nesting materials to store them in a warm, dry place during winter.

You can store the tubes in a shed, an unheated garage, or any other sheltered location with similar temperatures as the outdoors.

Keep an eye out for hazards. If possible, keep the nesting holes in a fine mesh bag to protect the larvae from parasitic wasps.

You will need to remove filled nesting materials to store them in a warm, dry place during winter.
During the winter, it’s necessary to relocate filled nesting materials to a warm, dry storage space.

A Mutually Beneficial Relationship

The Old Farmers’ Almanac suggests that you open and harvest the nesting tubes in the early spring. If you can, organize and separate the cocoons based on appearance.

With proper care, these cocoons will develop into a new generation of pollinators for your garden.

Gardeners benefit from welcoming bees into their gardens. The busy little insects are excellent pollinators and so you get fruit, vegetables, seeds, and berries in return for your hospitality.

Then, of course, there is the sheer pleasure of observing these creatures at work.

After all, watching bees opens up the world, broadening our understanding of nature – and there is simply no downside to that.

The Wrap Up

Embark on a journey into the heart of your garden. This guide is your passport to creating a vibrant sanctuary for our pollinator pals. From offering a diverse menu of nesting materials to strategic bee-house placement that catches the sun’s warm embrace, each tip is a brushstroke in the masterpiece of a joyful hive.

With routine check-ups and a garden adorned with native plants, this guide unveils the secrets to a thriving, buzzing utopia. Step into the enchanting world where gardens hum with happiness, and bees dance to the rhythm of nature. Are you ready to begin your journey?



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