Build your own creative dream home for solitary-nesting native bees and wasps, a.k.a. “bee condo” or “bee hotel”. B-friend your local pollinators and insect controllers.
We’re not “saving” native bees by making bee hotels. Our bee condos give us an opportunity to watch solitary, tunnel-nesting bees and wasps in action. They provide a window on biodiversity and its role in ecosystems and agriculture. Ecosystems support solitaries: we can assist pollinators by cultivating landscapes which self-generate structures found in nature so that they may thrive. Think dead logs, messy broken stems (chaos!), bare patches of earth and native plants. Do NOT use pesticides, fungicides, or herbicides.
Here’s how: Easy DIY Bee Condos Guide (Bee Hotels) pdf
After you’ve read the instructions above, you’ll want to keep these key things in mind:
Include diverse tunnel sizes in your homes. Our native bees are many different sizes and shapes. Provide tunnels of varying diameters and lengths in hollow plant stems, drilled wood, etc. Your creative ‘condo’ will attract solitary, tunnel-nesting bees and wasps which already live in deadwood and pithy stems around you, like the leafcutter bee nesting right under the solitary potter wasp, below. See more Inhabitants, and the DIY guide above. (Photo: Rob Cruickshank)
Put your condo wherever there is ample sunlight and nearby pollen, including flowering trees. Solitary bees and solitary wasps are rarely sting (more below on that). Native bees will inhabit your abodes anytime during bee season, their life cycles overlap from Spring – Fall. Leave your condo outside in Winter.
We came to look at the apartment.
Make your abode small and keep it clean. Above: a few beautiful dazzling kleptoparasites (described at bottom). The ecology of solitary nests is complex and amazing! Many organisms colonize solitary bee & wasp nests, including cuckoo bees, cuckoo wasps, parasitic flies, mites, bacteria & fungi. They, too, are important parts of ecosystems. Some are parasites, kleptoparasites or pathogens (causing disease), while others are mutualists or commensals – and they can reproduce rapidly! Bee hotels which are not annually attended to are likely to create a “bee sink”, generating NEGATIVE numbers of bees (in respect to initial nesters) within just a few years. Read the Xerces guides above about caring for your bee abode. Some nest materials are suitable to add to your garden topsoil after 2 years to continue their natural decay, along with other deadwood & plant stems. Other possibilities are explained in the Xerces pdfs. Entobarbie sez:
Safety? Solitaries are not social insects, and are unlikely to sting you! Solitaries don’t live in groups or mind if you watch their nesting activities – even up close.
No honey, no wax. Solitary bees don’t create food to store for the winter and have not evolved aggressive defenses. They differ from European honey bees (social, managed; foreign to the Western Hemisphere), bumble bees (social; native to the Western Hemisphere), and carpenter bees (native to or naturalized in Canada; socially polymorphic with both solitary and meta-social or semi-social nests in the same population).
Solitary wasps are key to natural insect control. Their biology also differs from their social cousins in ways similar to solitary bees. Like solitary bees, they don’t create food to store for the winter and so they also have not evolved aggressive defenses.
Local! Do not order solitary bees online or move your bee homes far from their origin. Although this is still common agricultural practice, pathogen spread and competition among introduced bee and wasp species are vital concerns around the world – as are the parasites, fungi and other biota that accompany them. Cultivating our local pollinators and insect controllers (native wasps) – especially through creating and maintaining habitat – makes for robust ecosystems.
Post photos of your solitary dream homes to our web gallery: Solitary Dream Homes Flickr photo stream (Canada)
You’re invited to add your condo to the gallery! If you’re not on Flickr, it’s easy to do via email (info below). We’ll add them to Hymenopteran Housing Project global Flickr group. If you live outside Canada, post your bee houses at Hymenopteran Housing Project Flickr group for flickr members (Flickr is free). Left & below: Rob Cruickshank’s space-age bee condo and “artisanal” blocks.
ABOVE: Your bee house in action – on the inside. “Mary-Jane” Hoplitis, a type of mason bee, builds cell and rolls a pollen ball. Video by Stephen Humphrey. From Odes to Solitary Bees video-poems.
How to post your photos to Solitary Dream Homes on Flickr:
Email your photo to: hall40side [at] photos [dot] flickr [dot] com . It will be automatically posted to the SDH Flickr page. For example:
Subject: Balsa Condo Extroardinair. Tags: bee house, solitary bees, balsa Email text: My fantastic new bee home in Montréal. Photo by Scoobie.
The subject will be the title of your photo (as above), and Flickr will see the words “Tags: tag1 tag2” etc. at the end of the title and make those into tags (if you wish to add tags). What you put in the body of your email will be the caption of the photo. Your email address will not be will not be displayed on Flickr or even saved — this is just a way for anybody to upload to Flickr (you don’t have to be a Flickr member to do this!). Bee abodes must accommodate a wide range of solitary bee species, not just mason bees.
But wait, there’s more! Who’s in my bee hotel?
About the bees and wasps pictured above:
Cuckoo wasps, like cuckoo birds, are cleptoparasites – they sneak into other solitary wasps’ (and bees’) nests and lay their eggs, which often consume or kill the host brood. Below: Chrysididae or emerald ccuckoo wasp & ruby-tailed wasp (see this related video).
Below left: Cuckoo bees in the genus Coelioxys prey on leafcutter bees. See cleptoparasite bee trading card #18 (front & back).
Metallic green sweat bee males find napping spots (above right). These glamorous ground dwelling bees, Agapostemon virescens, are Toronto’s official bee! See related video.
Below; Solitary mud dauber wasps (Trypoxylon metatarsus) make an intense Jimmy Hendrix-like sound while they packed in stunned garden spiders and seal cells with mud. Watch and listen up close in related video.
Below: Flies? Certainly not! Small masked sweat bees from the Hyleaus genus emerge in Spring from a bamboo tomato stake. Watch one creating her nest as she coats her tunnel with cellophane-like waterproofing material at Odes to Solitary Bees!
Below: Bees in the genus Heriades from the Okanagan valley make a nest among diverse neighbors (see Bee Houses Around the World for more condos by
Oops – way past time to clean the bee hotel!
And now for a cartoon.