Create a healthy home and habitat for struggling native bees in North America.
What Is a Bee Station?
A bee station, (aka, a bee hotel), is a group of nesting spaces for solitary wild bees. The nesting spaces are long, narrow chambers, made of either wood blocks drilled with holes or bundles of narrow PVC pipes tied together.
Why Build a Bee Station?
Bees provide an important role in our ecosystem by pollinating our flowers, trees, and crops. Unfortunately, many bee species are dying off due to disease, pesticides, and destruction of habitat. Bee stations help struggling bee populations by providing them with a safe environment. A station is a fun way to interact with nature and observe the comings and goings of busy bees, which can be as interesting as watching birds at a bird feeder.
What Kinds of Bees Will Use a Bee Station?
A bee station will attract a variety of solitary bee species, meaning bees that live alone and are not a part of a colony or hive. European honeybees, a nonnative species in North America, will not use bee stations.
Each native bee species is a different size and requires a hole or pipe of a specific diameter. For example, 1/8- to 1/4-inch diameter holes are perfect for small polyester, hornfaced, and leafcutter bees, while 1/4- to 1/2-inch holes suit the larger mason and carder bees. All bees are friendly if left undisturbed.
Why Attract Native Bees to Your Property?
Bees are essential to any garden. They pollinate all of the plants that produce fruit, vegetables, nuts, and seeds.
How to Attract Native Bees
Help to attract local bees to your bee station by planting native flowers. Native species vary from region to region, but the general qualities to look for are the same.
- Plant flowers that have single tops (e.g., daisies and marigolds); these produce the most nectar.
- Plant only perennial flowers native to your region.
- Plant a variety of flowers that bloom at different times during the season to ensure that there is always food for the bees.
Avoid using pesticides and herbicides on native flowers, flowering trees, and flowering vegetables; both chemical mixtures are very harmful to bees and their ecosystem.
How to Build the Bee Station
You Will Need:
- About 2 feet each of 1/8-inch, 1/4-inch, and 1/2-inch-diameter PVC pipe
- 4 caps for each size of pipe (total of 12 caps)
- One 5- to 6-foot-high metal fence post with clips
- Zip ties
- Plastic sheeting or tarp
- Tools (as needed): mallet, saw, knife or scissors
1. Cut each PVC pipe into four pieces:
- Cut each 1/8-inch pipe into 4-inch lengths
- Cut each 1/4-inch pipe into 5-inch lengths
- Cut each 1/2-inch pipe into 6-inch lengths
The different lengths are specific to the preference of each species of bee (bigger bee = larger hole = longer pipe).
2. Fit the PVC caps onto one end of each section of pipe.
3. Bundle the lengths of pipe together with the open ends facing the same way and flush with each other. (The capped ends will not be flush.) Secure the bundle of pipes together with a zip tie.
4. Cut a rectangle of plastic about 8 inches wide and 2 feet long. Wrap the plastic around the bundle of pipes (it will overlap itself). Leave 1 to 2 inches of plastic extending over the edge of the open pipes. This will protect the pipes from rain.
5. Secure the plastic cover to the pipes with at least 5 feet of twine. Wrap the twine around one end of the bundle and then the other, tying each side off tightly. Leave a good amount of slack in the twine between the two tied points on the bundle. This will be used as a strap to hang the station horizontally.
6. Find a spot in the yard near native perennial flowers and away from the house. Pound the metal fence post 1 foot into the ground.
7. Hook the twine strap of the bee station into the highest clip on the fence post. Use two new lengths of twine to lash the bee station to the side of the post so that it will not swing or shift. You may wish to wrap twine around the hotel and post several times if you live in a windy area.
When to Expect Bees
Native bees are active when flowers are blooming outdoors. Expect bees from May through September, with the highest concentration during the end of spring and the start of summer. It may take a week or two for bees to find your bee station, but they will come!