Your Guide to Bee Hotels in South Africa

Nov 18, 2020 | 1 comment

If you’re looking to naturally attract bees to your garden in South Africa, click here.

Where should I put my bee hotel?

Knowing where to put a bee hotel can make or break its ability to attract bees and sustain the full growth of larvae. In severe cases, poorly positioned hotels will suffer from pest infestations and mold overgrowth.

Height

Fix a bee hotel at a height between 1 and 1.5 m off the ground. A minimum height of 0.5m is also suggested.

This height should protect it from soil damp and some ground pests. It’s also convenient for viewing and maintenance when kept at chest to eye level. Use a foot stool for kids to have a look.

Balconies in the upper stories of buildings are not recommended as a location for bee hotels. Solitary bees obtain their food at ground level. It would be extra effort for them to go up and down from great heights.

Rain Protection

Water in the nesting tubes of bee hotels results in harmful fungus mold, damp, and condensation. This problem is severe.

Ideally, install a bee hotel underneath a roof outdoors. If this is not possible, ensure the bee hotel has a waterproof roof with an overhang.

Facing Direction

The front of the bee hotel should directly face the morning sun. This helps the bees warm up in the morning and get a wake-up call to start foraging early.

Wind Protection

Ensure the bee hotel does not swing or sway in the wind. This can damage the delicate nesting structures formed by the bee or disrupt the pollen stored within the hotel.

Ensure the bee hotel is fixed and secured well so that it cannot be dislodged or swept away in a storm. Anchor it well to the ground, the wall, or some stable element. Hanging a bee hotel from a tree branch or in a windy area is not a good idea.

Opening Area

The area in front of the bee hotel should be relatively open. Long grass, vegetation, thick shrubs, etc. should not block or conceal the entrance area. Avoid high-traffic areas as well. For example, the bee hotel should not open directly into a busy pathway.

Proximity to Artificial Lighting

Try keep the bee hotel away from a spot near that has heavy artificial lighting at night.

This can confuse the bees and they can end up distracted by the light, dying exhausted, or become prey for nearby lizards or spiders.

Proximity to Pesticides & Chemicals

Never place a bee hotel near areas where pesticides are used. Garden pesticides (such as insecticides, fungicides and herbicides) will kill solitary bees and can taint your bee hotel with poisonous residue for the long-term. Chemicals such as paint, wood varnish, jeyes fluid, and the like are also off-putting to bees.

Proximity to Other Bee Hotels

If you have multiple bee hotels, don’t keep them too close. You risk attracting excessive parasites to the area.

“As soon as you start concentrating animals you will attract parasites,” says Senior Researcher Dr Katja Hogendoorn from the University of Adelaide. “It’s best to have a few smaller hotels scattered around a garden — just 20 metres apart will do.”

How do I attract bees to my bee hotel?

Once you’ve got the location of your bee hotel, it’s time to start attracting your guests.

Here’s two things to help:

Plants

Multiple types of flowering plants are a great way of keeping solitary bees in your area because they serve as a food source.

Specifically, plants that attract solitary bees are aromatic and flowering, such as lavender, calendula, rosemary, daisy, etc. The more variety you have in your garden and in proximity to your bee hotel, the better. Likewise, take note of blooming periods of the various plants throughout the year and plant accordingly.

The following list of plants are also known for attracting solitary bees in South Africa:

  • Lilly Grass
  • Weeping Anthericum
  • African Star Flower (Hypoxis hemerocallidea)
  • Delosperma lineare

Water

Provide a stagnant or moving water source. This can be as simple as a bird bath, fountain, or something simpler.

If you’re worried about mosquitos, you may add rocks to the water and change it weekly.

May I use bait substances to attract solitary bees?

No. Treat your bee hotel completely different to a traditional honeybee hive. Never use propolis, beeswax, pheromones’, lavender oil, lemongrass oil, etc. internally or externally.

Remember, one of our goals is to help the development of the different solitary bee species already present in your area. Solitary bees only travel around 100m at most. The insects should therefore come naturally. The goal is not to ‘artificially’ attract a species still unknown in your local ecosystem,

Maintenance: How do you take care of a bee hotel?

Just like a human hotel, bee hotels need some maintenance and cleaning too.

Fortunately, it’s not as intensive as as a daily room service. Rather, your bee hotel needs some minor attention to its upkeep every few months. Here’s what to consider:

FAQ & Summary

Do bee hotels really work?

Yes! Bee hotels can work provided proper location, placing, and protection.

Do bee hotels attract bumble bees?

No. Bee hotels do not attract bumble bees.

Will I get honey from my bee hotel?

No. You will not get honey from a bee hotel because, unlike honey bees, solitary bees do not produce honey.

Are there honeybee hotels as well?

No. The honeybee will not live in a bee hotel because they are not solitary insects. Honeybees live collectively with their queen and produce honey and build honeycombs in a hive. This is not possible in a bee hotel, which takes only one guest per nesting tunnel.

Instead of a hotel, you will need a standard beehive for keeping honeybees as well as all else beekeeping entails!

What about ‘Insect hotels’ and ‘Bug hotels’?

Products sold as insect hotels, insect houses, bug hotels, bug houses, etc. are not necessarily bee hotels and the terms are not interchangeable. These hotels are designed differently for different insects, such as butterflies and ladybirds.

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1 Comment

  1. XMC Education

    I appreciate your work , thanks for all the interesting posts .

    Reply

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