Do it yourself: A house for wild bees

19. May 2020

Soon it will be summer and everywhere in the Olympiaregion nature blossoms with fresh life. There are thousands of scents in the air and a busy humming – it is high season for bees and insects. Food procurement and nest-building determine the day-to-day work of the little beneficial insects. When the weather is good, you can watch them at work on the lush alpine meadows around Seefeld. On the Bee Nature Trail near Reith you can also learn a lot of interesting facts about local forest bees and get inspiration for your own garden at Austria’s first bee hotel. Recently, a house for wild bees has been added to my garden – built under the expert guidance of Ferdi’s Beekeeping in Mösern. In this article, we provide you with the best building instructions for a bee’s house.

Where the wild bees live

Who speaks of bees usually means the common honey bee. The Swedish natural scientist Carl von Linné differentiated the “honey-bearing bee” Apis Mellifera in 1758 from the other wild bees. The honey bee is the only bee species that collects more honey than it needs. This exceptional stock management naturally made honey bees much more interesting for commercial beekeeping than their wild relatives. Today we know mainly the delicious honey of the industrious collectors, while the countless wild bee species have almost been forgotten. In addition, the wild bee also lives up to its name: it lives wild and free, as a self-sufficient bee without its own beehive, in holes in the ground and in reeds, behind cracks in walls and between cracks in wood. Unless, of course, one builds her a house.

A guest house for nice neighbours

The construction of self-built nesting aids, bee houses and hotels has nothing to do with beekeeping. Artificial homes rather give the busy animals back some of the habitat that humans claim for themselves in many places. Especially in densely populated areas, natural nesting places for wild bees are scarce. A bee house not only counteracts the urban housing shortage and supports the diversity of plant species (pollination), it is also an excellent opportunity to observe the little benefactors very closely! In contrast to stinging wasps and hornets, (wild) bees are very sociable neighbours in the garden. If you have children, this also teaches awareness, respect and the correct handling of the yellow and black striped helicopters. There are a few tips and tricks to consider when building a house.

Building instructions for a bee house

What is great is that you can find building materials for a formidable beehive everywhere on a walk through the extensive mountain landscapes of the Olympiaregion: Hardwoods from deciduous trees (such as beech, ash, oak, fruit or nut trees) are best, whereas softwoods are not at all popular with wild bees. If you don’t want to go for a walk in the forest, ask your nearest neighbour, carpenter, farmer or bee expert for a suitable leftover.

The piece of wood should be thick enough, because a wild bee needs at least ten centimetres of depth for a spacious single flat. In addition, the holes (6-12mm diameter) should always be drilled at right angles to the direction of growth, i.e. simply from the outside through the annual rings to the inside. For particularly beautiful results, a drill bit with a standing drill is the best choice; freehand drilling requires a little more sensitivity. Afterwards the drill holes are sanded down with sandpaper, because wild bees need smooth walls. The smoother the wall of the hole, the better it protects the new nesting place against mites, mould and moisture.

Long term residence in best location

Once the nest holes have been drilled and deburred, it’s time to start decorating! There are hardly any limits, only chemical paints and varnishes do not please the bees. Understandable, therefore only natural dyes are used, coloured and felt pens are also allowed. I simply dyed my bee residence with a strong brew of beetroot pale pink – you can also find other colour recipes here. With a hand miller or screwdriver you can also carve fine patterns into the surface – in my case geometric “honeycomb flowers” with strong coloured pencil accents.

Once the shell is finished, the roof ridge celebration follows, because even a Do it Yourself bee house needs a good roof. This should protect against rain but also not throw too much shade over the nest holes! If you are satisfied with the house construction, you also have to find a suitable place to live: Sheltered from the wind, sunny and dry is optimal, at best of course also close to the flowers. Once the new long-term home has been securely and stably installed, all you really have to do is wait until the new neighbours move in.

Ferdinand Schot is 26 years young and a beekeeper with heart and soul. Together with Ramona and their dog Audax, he keeps several thousand bees in “Ferdi’s Beekeeping” in Mösern near Seefeld. The conventional beekeeping is divided into the harvest of bee products such as honey, wax and propolis and the breeding of bee queens at the breeding station “Hohe Munde” as well as the formation of new bee colonies. The young beekeeper has turned his favourite hobby into his profession and thus also makes an important contribution to the natural biodiversity in the Olympiaregion. Ferdi regularly offers the homemade organic bee products at the Seefeld Market Days and at the Advent Market in Seefeld. Alternatively you can visit the online shop of the beekeeping or the shop of the friendly bee king in the Inntalcenter Telfs.

By the way: If you walk along the Bee Nature Trail in Reith, you will surely meet many busy honey bees and you can also admire Austria’s first bee hotel there.

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Fotos: Chris Weittenhiller, unsplash

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