Checking in at the Bee Hotel

By Published On: December 29th, 20231.9 min readCategories: Garden

Looks like the native bees have taken up residence

An insect hotel in the garden

The Bee Hotel has plenty of guests for the winter

It’s been three years since I learned about “bee hotels” and decided to build my own to help out our local pollinators. Despite the many comments I read from others who said their hotels were empty, mine has welcomed quite a few occupants over the years.

Here in San Diego there are a few different native bees, all of them solitary. In the spring and summer the ones we see the most are the big, shiny black carpenter bees (which, despite their scary looks, are actually quite docile). In the fall they make nests to lay their eggs by digging into soft or rotting wood. I’ve noticed they prefer dried agave flower stalks, which are the size of logs but quite soft, so I lined the bottom cell of the hotel with a few left over from the acorn woodpecker’s condo at the south end of the yard.

Based on the sawdust evidence, it looks like there are at least three carpenter bee nests riding out the winter right now.

The other native bees I see fairly frequently are mason bees. They’re smaller than carpenter bees and prefer hard woods, so I filled the upper portion of the hotel cells with oak logs that I drilled holes about the diameter of a pencil into.

a group of logs with holes in them

Mason bee nests sealed with mud in the bee hotel on December 29th

It’s pretty easy to see which of the holes are occupied because after the mason bee lays its eggs, it packs in some pollen (food for the hungry baby bees in spring) and seals the hole up with a little mud door.

Looking around, I can see at least half a dozen “closed” doors and an equal number of “open” ones from last spring.

Hopefully the El Niño weather will bring us plenty of rain this winter so the plants will have plenty to bloom about. It should be a pretty good spring for the native pollinators!

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About the Author

author avatar
Sage Osterfeld
I’m just a guy with nearly an acre of dirt, a nice little mid-century ranch house and a near-perfect climate. But in my mind I’m a landscaper survivalist craftsman chef naturalist with a barbeque the size of a VW and my own cable TV show. I like to write about the stuff I build, grow and see here at Sage's Acre.

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