• Article
  • Public engagement
  • Learning

What’s buzzing about your bee hotel? The results are in!

Bees are crucial pollinators, and we need them if we are to maintain a healthy diet. Along with Saviour Bees, we launched a citizen science survey to understand how Brits are using bee hotels, which are one way of boosting the chances for solitary bees by offering a refuge and a place to raise their next generation.

July 13, 2020

Bees are crucial pollinators and we need them if we are to maintain a healthy diet. Along with Bee Saviour Behaviour, we recently launched a citizen science survey to understand how Brits are using bee hotels, which are one way of boosting the chances for solitary bees by offering a refuge and a place to raise their next generation.

We wanted to understand for the first time how people are using their bee hotels, how effective they are, and if there are any ways in which we can help improve them.

The initial results are in, and we’ve already got a nice picture forming of what’s happening in gardens across the UK.

You can check the Bee Saviour Behaviour website for information on how to build or buy a really robust bee hotel, and you can still take part in our survey. The more responses we get, the better we can understand how we’re helping Britain’s pollinators - and it looks like we’re already off to a flying start.

What we know so far…

1. They work!

69% of people who responded to our survey so far said there was evidence of activity or occupancy in their bee hotels, which is a fantastic result. Of those who did not report activity, many pointed out that their bee hotels had only just been installed - so give it a few months and perhaps that figure could be even greater.

Image: Bee Hotel Statistic

69% of respondents with bee hotels had recorded some evidence of bee activity or occupancy.

Global food security fact

38% of respondents bought their Bee Hotel from a shop, while 34% were gifted one.

2 in 5 of respondents noticed mud was plugging at least one tube, while 1 in 5 noticed leaves were plugging at least one tube.

A large proportion of respondents able to secure bee hotels in a south facing position, and also at the correct height above the ground.

2. We're spotting a mixture of species!

We asked users to describe some of the features of their occupied bee hotels, including whether tubes are plugged with mud or leaves. Around 2 in 5 of respondents noticed mud was plugging at least one tube, while 1 in 5 noticed leaves were plugging at least one tube.

Mud pluggers tend to be solitary species such as red mason bees, which - as you will find out in our recent article on pollinators - are actually more efficient at pollinating plants than the famous honeybee.

Leaf pluggers tend to be solitary species such as the patchwork leaf cutter bee, which cut semi circular pieces of leaf from rose and wisteria plants and use them to make a nest for their larvae.

3. South Facing is Best!

We were delighted to see that a large proportion of respondents were able to secure bee hotels in a south-facing position, and also at the correct height above the ground.

The advice is to set up your bee hotel in a south facing position if you can, and the results so far suggest that this is indeed the best orientation. The vast majority of south-facing bee hotels showed evidence of activity, while the results for other bee hotels were more mixed.

From the survey we could see a correlation between the Bee Hotels placed in South Facing locations and Bee acitvity.

4. Tube size does matter!

Another pleasing result was that most people seemed to be able to offer bees tubes of 100mm or more, which is really important for the male to female ratio of bees, as Bee Saviour Behaviour Founder Dan Harris explains:

“Solitary bees have a strategy for maximising the growth of future populations of their species, and nesting tubes of over 100mm allow them to take full advantage of this strategy.

“Laying several eggs in each nesting tube, a solitary bee will start with female eggs, laying as many as the length of the nesting tube will allow, and will finish filling the nesting tube with one male egg closest to the open end of the tube. This male bee will be the first to emerge and will have an easy exit from the tube, but during its time in the tube it will have also been protecting the female eggs. Its position as the first egg in the nesting tube makes it the most vulnerable to predators and so if the nest comes under attack it will be the male that will be lost rather than the more valuable egg-laying females.”

So for bee hotel nesting tubes, size does matter!

Another pleasing result was that most people seemed to be able to offer bees tubes of 100mm or more

5. Most people do not know that they should maintain their bee hotel

For the most effective bee hotel, it’s important to maintain it by replacing old tubes. You can find housekeeping tips on the Bee Saviour Behaviour website.

Our star bioinformatician Dr Will Nash, who helped analyse these initial results, notes that he forgot to clean out one of his bee hotels this year - and the spiders have been tempted in. He saw a bee buzzing around it recently, quickly to be overcome by a venomous false widow bite.

52% of respondents said they were not aware that bee hotels should be maintained, and 20% were unsure.

6. Check off this checklist

Based on the results we’ve gathered so far, we’ve come up with this handy checklist which should help you find the best possible bee hotel.

7. A great gift idea!

Over a third of participants received their bee hotel as a gift and the results suggest that they have indeed kept on giving.

So, if you’re looking for a gift idea, why not put a smile on a loved one’s face and keep our solitary bees happy all at once?

8. Check out the gallery of your Bee Hotels!

Article author

Peter Bickerton

Scientific Communications & Outreach Manager