Beekeeping & Wildlife Supplies, Cornwall, South West UK

Solitary Bee Observation Hive

Solitary bee hive attachment
We have a range of Solitary Bee Observation Hives & Insect Hotels -  see Garden Bee Nest Boxes

Set up and Locate.

It is recommended to treat all external timber with an insect friendly, water repellent wood treatment.
We have a choice of suitable treatments on our website here - Bee Hive Wood Treatments
It is also advisable to 'oil' all other wooden surfaces, except for the nesting tunnels, with an inert damp proof treatment such as petroleum jelly or liquid paraffin.

Solitary bee nests need the heat of the sun to incubate their young so position ideally not in perpetual shade, 3-5 feet off the ground.
The hive can be attached to a fence, wall, post or tree by first fixing a vertical batten or horizontal battens of timber to the back of the hive and then fixing or attaching them to the support.

There are over 200 species of solitary bee that have different breeding periods from spring until the end of summer.
Female bees, after emergence and mating at the start of the season (when temperatures start to go above 14 C), will seek suitable nest sites to lay their eggs.
Those that look for natural cracks, crevices and hollows will use the tunnels in the hive, most commonly, species of Mason Bee and Leafcutter Bee.
They will gather pollen and nectar to supply each egg that they lay.
Each larva will eventually change to a pupa and will remain like that until the following year when they emerge as an adult to start the cycle again.

The image below shows mud lined cells built by Mason Bees, each supplied with a mixture of pollen and nectar, in tunnels seen in our Solitary Bee Observation Hive. Two different species are using different sized tunnels here.

Solitary bee brood

Management and maintenance.

The management of the hive is not necessary but can be done, it is a matter of personal choice.
Once sited, the hive and the bees can be left to get on with what they do best.

The hive can be managed in different ways.
The chambers can be removed as soon as they have been filled and then stored, for example, in our Solitary Bee Hive, Nest Chamber Box and replaced with new chambers.

Alternatively, the filled chambers can be removed, the clear plate detached and the pupae carefully removed - a suitably sized, flat tipped screwdriver works well. The pupae can then be stored in a cool, dry place (the attic space or hibernaculum, in our Solitary Bee Observation Hives could be used) and the tunnels cleaned, chambers reassembled and replaced. This is best done at the end of the season or before the new season starts. Ensure the stored pupae are placed back in a safe place outside before temperatures rise at the start of the season when they start to emerge.