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March 28, 2012

Attract Wild Bees in your Garden with an Insect Hotel

by Val Reynolds

It is time of year when I reinstall the bee nest boxes kept in our dry cool garage since last autumn, into the garden. I bought my nest kits some years ago from the Oxford Bee Company, which sadly is now defunct.

7 cm bee nest

7 cm bee nest

The Oxford Bee nests I have are two sizes: 7 cm and 12 cm

12 cm bee nest

12 cm bee nest

As the tubes the bees use to lay their eggs degrade over time and sometimes fall out and get wet, or birds pecking at the tubes make them fall out – some folk have trouble with woodpeckers – I had to search around for a website where I could get replacement tubes.

Red Mason bees use the tubes to lay their eggs and the most curious fact is that the first egg they lay emerges last? How can that be? Evolution I know – perhaps there’s some kind of chemical difference in the nectar moistened pollen used that delays development. Honey bees feed their queens 100% on what is known as royal jelly, a high protein secretion the worker bees produce from their heads, a somewhat less amount is fed to the drones, and even less to the workers.

7 cm bee nest with red mason bee

7 cm bee nest with red mason bee

This year I transferred most of the tubes from the smaller pipe to replace those gaps and degraded tubes in the larger pipe. So I decided to add some dried stalks of fennel and hollyhock that I left standing for insects to overwinter. Here is the result, a bit raggedy but useable. Another of my cunning plans – code for hopeful experiment! I use a pipe support for the pipes to rest on and then use wire to keep them in place.

A mix of ready made tubes and dry plant stalks

A mix of ready made tubes and dry plant stalks

When I need more I’ll make them from plastic water piping. One end would have to be blocked off to mimic the Oxford design.

In my search for replacement tubes I came across the Schwegler bee nesting box which has fascinating see-through tubes, the eggs and pollen can be clearly seen. And I found this really interesting website about bees – the drawings are delightful.

Here’s a link to info about Red Mason Bees

Here is a Google page with lots of references to Red Mason Bees.

Neudorff Insect Hotel

Neudorff Insect Hotel

Our Neudorff Insect Hotel is now erected. We have placed it near the greengage tree and look forward to watching the insects inspecting it!

Helping insects find a safe haven in your garden for nesting and hibernation isn’t just good for the environment – it helps your garden, too. Ladybirds and lacewings munch greenfly and blackfly, while mason bees pollinate fruit blossoms as do lacewings.

Neudorff’s new insect hotel offers a stylish way of greening your garden. Designed to attract ladybirds, lacewings, mason bees, digger wasps, wild bees and hibernating butterflies like Peacocks, Brimstones, Small Tortoiseshells and Red Admirals, its wooden structure features different rooms to suit insects’ varying needs, such as hollowed out wood for mason bees and a central space for butterflies to seek shelter.

It’s also a great educational and instructive device that fascinates young children from age of three upwards. Great for school projects too!

For more information, visit the Neudorff site.


UPDATE: We now have TWO Neudorff Insect Hotels to give away to In Balance readers. All you have to do to enter the draw is send an email to:

With Neudorff Insect Hotel in the Subject box and your contact details including telephone number in the text box

Only one entry per household will be accepted and must have a UK or Forces postal address.

Last date for entries has been extended to 10 June 2012.

Val Reynolds, Editor

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