Making of the Bugopolis: we wanted to make a bug hotel for solitary bees, and other insects, and had some time over Xmas, some materials and good weather...
In the UK there are around 220 species of solitary bee, which make individual nests for their larvae in hollow stems or brick walls and logs.
Different species of bee need different sized holes - from 2 to 10 mm, so we aimed to use a selection of materials and drill holes in logs of different sizes.
Red mason bees like holes 7 to 8mm wide.
Or bug-opolis has a roof, which might protect some of it from the rain.
- We made the bug-opolis from a long pallet from a building site, which is why it is 20 cm deep - two planks of pallet. Some people say 15 cm is best. We hope the wood wasn't stained and it should be painted or varnished.
- It has some scrap featherboard as a roof.
- We used high quality 'exterior' screws and finished the back of it with some scrap wire mesh to help stop the sticks falling out.
- We made some wooden 'skis' to raise it off the ground and attached it to the shed with wood to stop it falling over.
- We put a couple of vine eyes on the side so we could hand bird food from it. A coconut shell with suet is popular. We also hung some seed heads for insects until Storm Imogen blew them across the garden.
- We drilled holes in the logs - one with Bug-opolis in holes and some of different sizes in some of the smaller logs.
- We finally finished it off with a plastic mesh front to discourage vandalism.
What we collected
'Variety is the true essence of a bug hotel'...
- Bricks with holes in on the allotment - they had been a ground level for a few months and already had some over-wintering caterpillars in them - smooth green and brown furry ones. Hope they don't mind being moved.
- Hollow stems from fennel, sedums and green-hot pokers.
- Sticks with soft pith in them from elder trees on the allotment and in the Nightingale Garden. Cow parsley stems and straw are supposed to be good too.
- Bamboo - but we haven't cut this up yet. Apparently you are supposed to cut between nodes or have ay least one 'open end'. And sand the ends...
- Odd sticks - which just make spaces - from willow and fruit trees.
- Cardboard tubes of all sizes from cling film, playground felt and Pringles.
- Hardwood logs, with drilled holes and sawdust removed.
- Pine cones - from the felled trees by the cycle bridge.
- Terracotta pot shards.
All these needed to be cut to size, in our case up to 20cm but others say 10 to 20 cm. This starts off being therapeutic.
What else can we look for: dead leaves, dead wood, rough timber and straw.
What not to use: plastic straws... maybe they get too hot and sweaty?
We wanted to use it to screen our wheelie bins and this is in a sunny spot, which is good. Some say it is best that it isn't in full sun. Some say South or South East and at least 1m above ground level without vegetation blocking the entrance. If you don't have a compass, choose somewhere that gets the early morning sun.
It is best to have a place protected from the wind, which it isn't particularly. Some people move bug hotels indoors in the winter and then put them back out in March.
When we can expect bees to think about moving in
Different species lay over the summer, add pollen and nectar to feed their larvae and block the entrances with mud, or leaves if they are leaf-cutter bees.
In the Autumn the larvae will hatch, remain in their nests until Spring and then hatch as adults in the Spring.
Having different types and length of holes helps the bees build up a 3D image and find their way home.
What else might move in?
Multi-stack bug hotels might attract bumblebees, hedgehogs, ladybirds, solitary bees, spiders, toads and woodlice. Ours is a bit small and neat for some of those, so we should probably make a larger, more untidy one nearer to hedges too. We have lot of pallets and terracotta pots of various sizes.
Looking after it
We need to keep it stable and fairly dry. The cardboard seems to dry out quite well after showers, probably because it is sunny and windy.
From time to time, we should replace the stems to help prevent parasites.
See the new CambridgeWild webpage for useful links.
Last updated: 1 February 2017