Over the coming months, with a little more time on our hands, we will be sharing a series of posts on making. From how to sew on a button and hem a pair of trousers to the creating of a sourdough starter and a simple recipe for kimchi. All our guides will be coming straight from our community of makers. This week, we are sharing a guide to making a bee hotel, by our maker Geoffrey Fisher.
Geoffrey has a deep appreciation for wood and creates unique, functional objects that celebrate the natural characteristics of the material. Here, he describes the purpose of a bee hotel, the tools you will need and the method to follow.
HOW TO MAKE A BEE HOTEL
Most people are familiar with the honey bees and bumble bees that live in colonies, but the majority of the bees that are native to the UK (and elsewhere) are known as solitary bees and are amazingly effective pollinators. Solitary bees are highly diverse, and so are their nesting habits. The majority nest in the ground by excavating their own holes where the female then lays her egg. The mason bee is the most familiar sight in the UK, and this species will quickly set up home in a bee hotel like this one. It is important that once you have made your bee hotel it is positioned in full sun and at least a metre above the ground with no vegetation obscuring the entrance, otherwise it is unlikely to be used.
Bench Vice, Bench Saw, Cordless Drill, 9mm Lip and Spur Woodworking Bit, Countersink, Sanding Block, Bench Hook, Plastic Faced Hammer, Screwdriver
Ash, Hazel, Beech, Sycamore, Yew, Cherry, Oak or Birch Wood Screws, 4mm Dowelling
SELECTING THE WOOD
Any type of greenwood can be used to make a bee hotel as long as it is reasonably straight. Each piece should be longer than the length
of a drill bit and no more than a couple of centimetres thick. Once you have selected your pieces of wood, make the cut at a slight angle to provide an overhang above the hole you will drill next, to protect the bee from rainfall when the wood is mounted into position.
Some bee hotels fail to attract inhabitants because the holes are too large a hole of 9mm diameter or less is recommended.
Secure the work in the bench vice and drill a hole down the centre as far as the drill bit will allow, then drill a second smaller hole from the other end for the fixing screw.
It is important that the entrance is smooth and free of splinters as well as the entire length of the hole otherwise the bee will damage its wings. Use the countersink around the entrance to the hole, then drill a hole where you want to attach the perch.
FITTING THE PERCH
If you use a piece of dowelling the same diameter as the hole, the perch will require no gluing to secure it.
Once the perch is fixed into position, cut it to length and smooth the edges. The bee hotel is now ready to receive guests. Remember to screw it in place in full sun at least a metre above the ground.
TIP: A perch is not entirely necessary, and as there is no evidence that a perch will attract a prospective inhabitant looking for a desirable place to lay an egg, it can easily be omitted.
Words by Geoffrey Fisher. Images by Roo Lewis and Sarah Weal. Shop Geoffrey Fisher.
We hope you enjoy this little guide on how to make a bee hotel - and that many more solitary bees will find a home this year. If you do make a bee hotel, please share it on instagram using the #TOASTtimetomake - we would love to see them. Geoffrey has more tips and techniques for making functional objects for the house and the garden in his book Catapults & Key Hooks.