- Matt Hoad
Buzzing around for bees
Updated: Nov 15, 2021
There has been much in the press about the decline of the bee population and the importance of us all doing what we can to ensure the bee population recovers. According to the Wildlife Trust there are around 270 species of bee in Britain with just under 250 species of solitary bees. Most of us will only be able to identify all but a few of these but they all need habitat to thrive with access to food, clean water and places to live.
Much as we might create great places that we want to live in we must also create suitable habitat for all insects and especially bees. Contributing is really important and every inch of habitat counts even if we have only very tiny spaces on balconies or in small gardens. As an essential pollinator of plants, bees underpin the health of the planet and our own survival.
We collectively have a role to play in creating habitat. I believe that it is essential to use low impact natural materials, maximise re-use and upcycling and to avoid spending money on products that often contain plastic and have a large carbon footprint. Making the wrong decisions undermine what we are trying to achieve in the first place – to protect and rebuild our natural environment. Natural materials also look better in the garden!
I built my own bee hotel in my small back garden in response to growing concerns about the disastrous decline in the bee population due to pollution, pesticides and habitat loss. There was also a colony of masonry bees mining out the sandy 1930’s mortar of my mid terrace house and they had to be rehoused before the bricks fell out!
My bee hotel is designed to use disused Victorian land drainage pipes dug up from the back garden. The shape of the hotel is based around vertical stacking of the pipes in a triangular formation and is held together with naturally durable timber such as oak left over from fencing with western red cedar planks bought cheaply as damaged stock from a local timber merchant. I always sketch out a basic form and then the materials and the method of construction dictate the aesthetics.
The individual bee hotel rooms are created from Chestnut coppice with a variety of hole sizes up to 12mm in diameter drilled about 30mm into the wood. I have also included small bamboo, cones and decaying wood for other insects to inhabit.
It gives the whole family great satisfaction to watch the population of solitary bees’ hurry from nearby flowers filling burrows with pollen into fine mud lined food stores tucked back in the hole. The bees create a rugged mud plug to close the door which is beautifully made and textured.
As the population grows and the holes fill up with happy bees you can always extend the hotel and drill more holes and you may also need more bee friendly flowers to keep them buzzing!
Useful link: https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/blog/ryan-clark/guide-solitary-bees-britain