All about Bee hotels
BEE HOTELS AND EVERYTHING YOU WOULD LIKE TO KNOW
If we want our garden to be self-sufficient, beautiful, healthy and productive, we need to respect each living creature and make efforts to establish a so called biological balance (the soil, microorganisms, plants and animals are reciprocally at a balanced ratio). Such a garden is a little miracle – a functioning ecosystem.
WHAT ARE BEE HOTELS?
The hotel is a sanctuary for beneficial solitary insect. It is inhabited particularly by solitary bees (various leafcutter, mining, mason or carpenter bees) and cuckoo wasps which are important pollinators of flowers and fruit trees. During observations they are entirely harmless as they do not sting. Other various species of helpers may accommodate in insect hotels – ladybirds, earwigs, lacewings, true bugs, ladybugs and others who don’t form communal communities. These inhabitants are great helpers for gardeners as they feed on many insect pests such as plant lice. They are also harmless to humans and show very interesting life manifestations.
HOW DO BEE HOTELS WORK?
Each spring these tiny insects search for a place – a safe crevice where they lay eggs of the next generation. Every solitary bee lays its eggs into a selected hole in the hotel (usually each egg into a separate cell), it supplies food (pollen and nectar paste) and it closes the hole using a suitable material (soil, pieces of leaf – species use their own favourite materials). Eggs hatch into larvae which feed on the food provided, and after some time they make cocoons to finally hatch into the new generation. Females mate with males and the cycle repeats. Dozens of solitary bee species live in the Czech Republic and each has a unique way of life!
WHAT ARE SOLITARY BEES FOR?
To pollinate a vast majority of fruit trees, shrubs and plants, t hat’s whybees and bumblebees are essential. The times when every other garden had a few hives has unfortunately long been gone, besides this is also due to the use of pesticides. A great advantage of solitary bees compared to honeybees is their absolute peace-loving nature. Their breeding is completely safe and easy, you can entrust it to children. Solitary bees are very proficient pollinators, often even more efficient than honeybees. This is particularly true when pollinating heterogamous variety (they are more “promiscuous” – readily changing one tree for another) even at lower temperatures or in the rain, thus they pollinate most for of the year. They are excellent pollinators of plants requiring cross-pollination between two cultivars including almonds, cherries and most apples, and crops having male and female flowers separately such as squashes, water melons or kiwi friut. Unlike honeybees they can resist the richer availability of nectar and pollen in the neighbourhood (I have often observed that honeybees leave blooming apple trees completely if a field of rapeseed comes into bloom nearby, whereas solitary bees stay!). Unlike solitary bees, workers of honeybees are able to communicate very well, and convey information about the ample load found. However, this characteristic is much appreciated by farmers, when honeybees get tricked and successfully pollinate plants grown in large areas, this becomes more of a disadvantage if we have a small garden and not a hundred-hectare orchard.
WHEN TO HANG HOTELS?
The hotel may be hung u anytime throughout the year; however, early in the spring (February / March) just before the blossoming of pussy willows is the best time. We may leave it there until autumn: gradually various species appear. In the winter, we may store it in a barn or leave it outside: let’s not forget that bees usually hibernate in these nests – so be careful. There is no need to clean the hotel.
WHERE TO PUT HOTELS?
The hotel is often placed on the sunny side of a tree trunk, or a pole in a herbal bed. Gardens, hedges, or slopes, there are many possibilities; however, it needs a sunny place on the lee side, preferably located tothe southeast or southwest and 1 to 2 meters above the ground. The insect occupancy depends on how attractive the environment is (sometimes it needs to be re-located to a more suitable place, or more tempting plants must be grown such as oregano, lavender, sage, echinacea, stinging nettle or a lime tree). However, results often exceed expectations – it really works!
Our success will be visible due to the lively bustle of bees in the nest: bees carry pollen inside cells on the hairs of their hind legs. When they fill the hallway with eggs and food, they seal the entrance with soil (mason and Chalicodoma bee) or pieces of leaves (leafcutter bee). It is very likely that the nest will be visited by a wide range of species. Do not be discouraged with the first failure, bees prefer slightly aired shelters, thus the hotel will not be full on the first day.
In recent decades, the amount of pollinators has rapidly declined as a result of their habitat destruction and the use of pesticides. It is up to us whether the number of our important helpers increases again.
Thank you for your time and interest!
Boleslav Daška, DiS.
PS: Should you want to know more or need help with anything, please feel free to contact me.
And finally, one short story for thought...
A man is walking along a beach where hundreds of starfish were washed up by the sea. Every time he can, he takes one and throws it back into the water. Another man is watching and then he asks: “Why are you doing this? It’s meaningless, you cannot save them all.” The man turns to him, tosses one into the sea and replies: “But it’s meaningful for this one.”
Bee hotels on our garden