Would you like to make your garden more bee friendly? This simple DIY bee hotel is a great nature craft project for kids that will help you do just that.
Why are bees important?
Bees play a crucial role in the way our planet functions.
Bees pollinate plants, which means they’re really important when it comes to the food we grow. It is estimated that bees help to provide around a third of all the food we eat!
By pollinating plants, bees also help many species of trees and flowers to thrive. This is turn allows those trees and plants to provide habitats for lots of other species – another reason why bees are so important.
Bees have a huge impact on the cost of farming too. According to the Woodland Trust, it would cost UK farmers £1.8 billion per year to pollinate their crops if bees didn’t do it for them.
Amazing bee facts
Here are some incredible bee facts to help kids understand more about these amazing creatures.
- There are over 20,000 different bee species.
- Bees have five eyes. They can see every colour except red.
- Some types of bee live in colonies, while other types live on their own.
- The average beehive houses up to 50,000 bees.
- The queen bee can lay up to 2,500 eggs per day.
- Honey bees can fly at about 25km per hour.
- In one trip to collect nectar, a worker bee will visit 50-100 flowers.
- When honey bees find a good source of food, they do a ‘waggle dance’ to show other bees in their colony where it is!
Why are bees in danger?
Many species of bee are in decline across the world, largely due to one or more of these factors:
The use of pesticides containing neonicotinoids is harming bees, and other species too, including butterflies, birds and other mammals. These chemicals are toxic to bees, and exposure causes damage to their nervous system and ultimately death. The use of neonicotinoids is now banned in the UK and EU, but it’s incredibly important that this ban is maintained and that other countries across the world also take action to protect bees.
Loss of habitats is another key element in the decline of bees. More intensive farming methods and an increase in the amount of land being developed and built upon both translate into less of the natural habitats that bees need in order to thrive.
Climate change also has an impact on the welfare of bees, because extreme weather can change the availability of the flowers they rely on.
Finally, honey bees are facing a threat from a parasite called the Varroa mite. These mites can wipe out an entire bee colony in under three years.
Easy ways to help bees
It’s not all bad news though. There are lots of things we can do in our gardens to help native bees thrive. I’ve got a whole blog post on wildlife gardening for bees which is full of simple ideas – including adding a bee hotel to your garden.
Solitary bees and mason bees make their homes in small holes. A solitary bee hotel, or solitary bee house, is the perfect way to provide this type of habitat in your garden. You can buy bee hotels, but it’s lots of fun to make one!
How to make a bee hotel
A bee hotel DIY is a lovely nature craft for kids to try, and the perfect activity for introducing them to the idea of looking after nature and local wildlife.
Here’s how to make your own bee hotel from a few basic supplies.
Materials you need to make a bee hotel
To make your bee hotel, you will need:
- An empty, clean plastic bottle
- Modelling clay or air drying clay
- Bamboo canes
- Stickers, acrylic paint or permanent markers (optional)
Making your bee hotel
Start by cutting the top off your plastic bottle, then sand the cut edge to remove any sharp bits.
Cut your bamboo canes so that they fit in the bottle and don’t stick out of the end. An easy way to do this is to stand the cane in the bottle, and cut it where it reaches the top.
Put a ball of modelling clay or air drying clay into the bottom of the bottle, and push it down.
Fill the bottle with canes, pushing each one into the clay to secure it. Fit as many in as you can, until it’s nice and full.
If you like, you can decorate your bee house at this stage. We used stickers, but acrylic paint and permanent markers should also work well.
Lie the bottle on its side and tie two lengths of string around it, one at each end.
Tie the four loose lengths of string together at the ends to create a hanging loop.
Hang your bee hotel in the garden. Somewhere in full sun or partial shade is ideal.
An alternative diy bee hotel
You can also use an empty terracotta pot to make your DIY bee house. This is a great option if you can’t hang up a bee hotel, because you can put it on the ground. Make sure you clean out any dirt and soil before you start adding your modelling clay and canes, and place your finished bee house in a quiet part of the garden where it won’t be disturbed very often.
When should you put out a bee hotel?
There’s no ‘wrong’ time to put your native bee hotel in the garden. It will probably get the most use in spring and summer, but it’s fine to have a bee hotel in your garden all year round.
Fun activity ideas for your bee hotel
Once your bee hotel is finished, you can have some fun using it to learn more about bees.
You could start with the amazing bee facts at the top of this post, then move onto some of these cool activities.
Keep an eye on your bee hotel to see who moves in. The hollow canes will be very attractive to solitary bees and mason bees. You can tell if one has moved in because a hole will look like it has been blocked up – usually with pieces of leaf.
Here’s a fun video which gets you up-close to see what’s going on in a beehive:
The Bumblebee Conservation Trust has lots of great bee-themed activity sheets, crafts and games here.
You could also have fun with a bee scavenger hunt.
More fun nature craft and play ideas
Making a bee hotel is just one of the fun nature activities for kids in my book, *A Year of Nature Craft and Play. There’s an activity for every week of the year and it includes fun nature crafts, gardening, games, art and science experiments – perfect for inspiring kids to get crafting with nature and explore the amazing natural world.
You can also join our facebook group, Nature Crafts & Play Ideas, for more nature-inspired fun, outdoor crafts and nature projects.
More ideas for looking after bees
If you’d like to explore more ways to help bees, my blog post on how to make a bee friendly garden has lots of ideas for creating a bee garden, plus tips on the best flowers for bees. You might also like to take a look at these other resources:
*B is For Bee introduces very young children to the world of bees through lovely illustrations and simple facts.
*The Bee Book teaches children about the importance of bees and what we can do to help them.
My post on growing wildflowers shows kids how to create a mini wildflower meadow of bee friendly plants and flowers that bees will love.
You can make a donation to Friends of the Earth to help save bees, and they’ll send you a great Bee Saver Kit in return.
I’ve also got a wildlife gardening Pinterest board which is full of inspiring ideas.
And finally, my post on bee jokes is ideal if you’d like a bee-themed giggle!
Have I inspired you to make your own bee hotel and help your local bees?
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