Experimenting With Bee Hotel Placement
Over the last year, wild bee advocacy has become one of my clearest passions. While there are lots of ways we can engage in advocacy for these animals, the creation of bee hotels occupies an emergent market niche that I believe has the potential to become as common as birdhouses, given a few years of design innovation and market saturation to reach a wider audience. The effects of this market’s growth could have a tremendously positive impact on dwindling wild bee populations around the world.
This year I’m conducting an experiment to collect some data on bee hotel design and placement in my local community. I’ve taken fifteen bee hotels and placed them in different types of areas where I’ll be able to regularly check-in on them throughout the year. Bee activity will start a little bit later in the spring, but until then, I’ve written up this post as a way of tracking the research I’m conducting.
Below are brief descriptions of where I have placed my fifteen models. All bee hotels are south-facing.
Boxes 1 (green) and 2 (pink) are both set on the ground off-trail in a wooden park area above a road and within about twenty feet of a local solar farm.
Box 3 is set about ten feet off a walking trail and another ten feet away from a road, about one foot off the ground. Across the road is another bee hotel (not mine) and a garden with numerous flowers.
Box 4 is set about fifteen feet off a walking trail and two feet high in the woods and on a fence which borders a highway entrance.
Boxes 5, 6, and 7 are set on trees in a wooded area about forty feet back from a walking trail and twenty feet uphill away from a creek. They are each about five feet off the ground.
Box 8 is set on a fence post in my backyard about five feet high.
Box 9 is the only reed-based model, and is set on a fence post in my backyard about six feet high.
Boxes 10, 11, and 12 are set about seventy-five feet away from a walking trail in a wooded area about five feet off the ground.
Box 13 is set about a quarter mile away from a walking trail in a wooded area about five feet off the ground. Behind it about twenty-five feet away is a creek. In front of it is a clearing in the forest where lots of wild growth has been observed before, and where additional planting may take place later in the season.
Box 14 is set behind Box 13 and further into the woods by about twenty feet, directly above the creek. During placement, a downed tree in the area was observed to have many insect holes and pathways of various sizes, including some which appeared to be made by mason bees.
Box 15 is set closer to the trail, triangularly away from Boxes 13 and 14, in a wooded area where a handful of small flowers were observed.
Variables to Consider
As I collect my observations this year, I plan to also note to the best of my ability the flora and fauna observed in each box’s immediate vicinity. This task will be much easier once more things begin to bloom.
Every box except 9, 13, 14, and 15 features holes primarily designed for mason bees. These four boxes feature holes suitable for larger bees like bumblebees. Box 2 features one row of bumblebee sized holes under six rows of mason bee holes. This is an ecological assumption I have made which may not accurately reflect the biodiversity in this area.
While there is some variation in design based on the models I had available, design variations are not tested side by side, so the key variable in this experiment is placement. In the future, if I can produce multiple variations of bee hotel models, I would like to collect data on design as well as placement.
Overall, this experiment is primarily about engagement. Do bees (or any insects) engage with any of the boxes? How many? When? Which boxes are chosen?
As the season passes, I’ll include updates on this experiment in my quarterly homestead check-in posts.
Interested in supporting this research? You can buy me a coffee here.
Pat Mosley (NC LMBT #16882) is a licensed massage and bodywork therapist in the Winston-Salem area. His work is rooted in compassionate touch, permaculture, and deep ecology with the resilience of all Earth's children in mind. Connect with him via email to firstname.lastname@example.org