How To: Build a Bee Hotel

By MDC | May 1, 2024
From Xplor: May/June 2024

Mason and leafcutter bees help flowers grow. To invite these hardworking flower farmers into your yard, build a bee hotel.

Mama mason and leafcutter bees nest in hollow twigs, abandoned insect burrows, or rolled-up paper tubes. Once mom finds a tube that’s the right size, she builds “rooms” out of leaves or mud and lays an egg inside each one. Baby bees hatch out and grow during fall and winter by eating food left by mom. In the spring, the young bees chew out of the rooms and take over the flower-farming business.

Here’s what you need

  • ¼-inch wooden dowel about 1 foot long
  • 40 sheets of 8.5- by 11-inch scrap paper
  • Scissors
  • Empty 28-ounce aluminum can (washed, dried, and label removed)
  • Empty 2-liter soda bottle (One with straight sides works best.)
  • Transparent tape
  • Duct tape
  • Bungee cords or rope

Here’s what you do

  1. Cut the paper in half to make 8.5- by 5.5-inch sheets. Put on some music. You’re about to make a lot of tubes.
  2. Roll each sheet tightly around the dowel to make 5.5-inch-long tubes (these will become hotel rooms for baby bees). Take care to roll the paper straight so the ends are even. Use small pieces of tape to keep the tube from unrolling and then slide it off the dowel. Repeat until all the sheets are rolled up.
  3. Fill the can with tubes until you can’t slide in any more. (It will take 75 to 80.) Be careful not to crush the tubes. Make sure the end of each tube is firmly against the bottom of the can.
  4. Cut out a rectangle of plastic from the middle of the soda bottle. Wrap the plastic halfway (or more) around the can to make a “roof” so rain doesn’t blow inside and soak the tubes. Leave a 3-inch overhang on the front of the can. Use duct tape to secure the roof to the can. Optional: Decorate your bee hotel with craft duct tape or water-resistant paint.
  5. Place your bee hotel about 4 or 5 feet off the ground near blooming plants. Use bungee cords or rope to secure the hotel to a fence or deck post so it doesn’t move in the wind. The hotel’s opening should face south so the morning sun warms up the baby bees.
  6. Replace the tubes every summer with new paper tubes. Though it seems easier, avoid using plastic straws or bamboo. They won’t allow air to seep inside, which will cause the baby bees to suffocate.

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This Issue's Staff

Artist – Matt Byrde
Photographer – Noppadol Paothong
Photographer – David Stonner
Designer – Marci Porter
Art Director – Cliff White
Editor – Matt Seek
Subscriptions – Marcia Hale
Magazine Manager – Stephanie Thurber