Make your own bumblebee hive!

By Becca Smithers

The buzz about bees!

Bees are just one group of pollinators that make sure we have flowers and crops year after year. Flies, butterflies, moths, birds, and the wind also pollinate our plants. Pollinator species are declining and they need your help!

CC-BY-SA Sffubs

CC-BY-SA Sffubs

Natural habitats of pollinators are at risk from agriculture and urbanisation. These crucial creatures need to find places to live and thrive in order to be able to pollinate the plants we need. Without our pollinators we would have very little food to eat, there would be no fruit, few grains and no meat as livestock need to eat plants too. Pollinators are vital for our survival, and populations of bumblebee species in particular are suffering.

“If the bee disappears from the surface of the Earth, man would have no more than four years to live.” – Albert Einstein.

Bumblebees are quite picky about where to build a hive. A queen bee will search for a good location and will be joined by her worker bees who maintain the hive and find the pollen needed for food. Bumblebees need a hive in a good area of flowering plants which also protects them. Empty mice nests are a favourite hive site but these can be difficult to find.

Bumblebees need us to make hive sites for them! All you need is a garden and a few bits and pieces.

How to make a bumblebee hive:

You will need:

  • A shady spot in your garden at ground level (bumblebees make their hives at ground level, honeybees and solitary bees like their hives higher up)
  • A terracotta flowerpot greater than 20 cm in diameter
  • A bit of hosepipe about 2 cm in diameter and 30-50 cm long
  • A tile or spare bit of flower pot to cover the hole at the bottom of the flowerpot
  • Some chicken wire moulded to fit the rim of the flowerpot
  • Nesting material (ideally from an old mouse nest or made of dried moss. If you have a rodent pet use some of their bedding and droppings).

Step One – find your hive spot

I helped my Dad build this beehive in my parent’s garden. There was a nice shady spot at the back of the garden by the wall (just down from the hedgehog house!). We placed the mesh of chicken wire on the spot where we would build the hive. Then position the hose to go from outside the hive to inside. Make sure to pierce the hose to make some air holes for the bees!

Stage One - decide where your bee hive will go and position the hose and wire mesh

Step One – decide where your bee hive will go and position the hose and wire mesh

We are trying to trick the bumblebees into thinking they are going into the ground when really they are going into a hose to under a flowerpot. Here we also used a brick and some earth to secure the hose pipe.

Step Two – build up your nest material

Punk and Barney provided the nest material for our bee hive - thanks guys!

Punk and Barney provided the nest material for our bee hive – thanks guys!

The queen bees are attracted to the scent of mice as they know that mice holes make good hives. If you find an empty mouse hole then you could take some nest material from there and mix it with some dried moss you have found in a wild environment (where mice have probably been). Alternatively you can use droppings and bedding from a pet rat, mouse, gerbil, or guinea pig.

Our nest material was kindly donated by my guinea pigs, Punk and Barney. I collected their hay and droppings so the bees will be able to smell that rodent scent that attracts them to the hive site. I then mixed the piggie bedding with some moss that Dad had dried out for a few days before.

Perfect nest material for a bumblebee hive! Build up your nest material on top of the wire chicken mesh to almost the top of the hose pipe. You don’t want any bits of moss getting into the hose so don’t build the nest up too high.

Step 2 - Build up your nest material to almost the top of the hose

Step Two – Build up your nest material to almost the top of the hose.

 

Step Three – finishing touches!

We’re almost done! All you need to do now is place your upturned flower pot over the mound of nest material and put the extra pit of flower pot just over the hole at the top of the big flower pot. It’s important to leave enough of a gap for air to get in, but not too much light. We used quite a heavy flower pot so we used a small branch to prop up the pot slightly to make sure it didn’t crush the hose pipe. Just make sure your bees can get through the hose!

To ensure we had properly fooled the bees, Dad surrounded the bee hive base with some extra turf and bricks, which also helps to hold the flowerpot in place. If you choose to do this just be careful to leave the outside bit of the hose exposed so bees can find it!

Step three - put your flowerpot on top of the nest and make sure it's secure!

Step three – put your flowerpot on top of the nest and make sure it’s secure!

 

And you’re done! Leave this hive in place for several years, it may take a while for a hive of bees to move in but don’t worry, a mouse may move in first which will make it even more attractive to the bumblebees! By making this bee hive you are doing your part to protect some of our pollinators!


 

This DIY Bumblebee hive activity was developed by Hartley Botanic in collaboration with the Bumblebee Conservation Trust.

 

Posted in Activity, Biology