Bee Houses for Native Solitary Bees

Get Better Flowers, Fruits, and Vegetables with a Native Bee House!

October 21, 2020
Bee House

Bee houses are an easy and eye-catching way to attract native bee species to your garden.


Build a native bee house to enjoy more blooms and greater harvests! Similar to bird houses, bee houses are meant to increase the pollination of your garden plants by the super-pollinating solitary bees, such as mason bees and leafcutter bees. Learn more here.

What Is a Bee House?

Bee houses (also called bee hotels or bug hotels) are similar to bird houses, but instead of attracting birds, they attract native solitary bee species. Unlike honey bees, these solitary bees are extremely docile and up to three times more effective as pollinators. No, you won’t get any honey, but you will enjoy better flowers, thriving plants, and healthier vegetables in your garden!

Some of the most common solitary bees are mason bees, leafcutter bees, and miner bees. Many of these native bees are already a part of the local ecosystem, but providing them with a perfect place to nest in your backyard can improve their lives and yours.

Bee houses consist of a wooden, birdhouse-like structure containing native bee nesting materials—typically hollow reeds or cardboard tubes. They are the perfect habitat for solitary, hole-nesting bees, who also happen to be some of the best pollinators around.

Watch the video below to learn how to build your own bug hotel (for bees and other beneficial insects).

6 Tips for Managing a Successful Bee Hotel

Here are a some great tips for keeping your native bee house buzzing:

1. Avoid bee houses that are too large

While a bee house that is 4 feet wide and 6 feet tall looks great, draws a lot of attention, and raises awareness of native bees, this size is much too ambitious and will likely become a burden to maintain. Like birdhouses, which ought to be cleaned out at the end of each year, bee houses need to be refreshed annually with new nesting materials. Bee hotel maintenance takes little effort overall, but consider the time that you can devote to managing the bees that move in.

Be sure to choose a bee house size that matches what the surrounding area can provide. For example, a stand of flowering trees and bushes can provide more pollen than a meadow of flowers can, meaning a larger house would be appropriate for the former.

Bee house
Wild Bee Motel from Crown Bees

2. Protect nesting materials from wind, rain, and birds

Hole-nesting bees need a place to live that’s dry and safe. The ideal bee house will have a solid outer structure that has a 2–3” overhang, which will protect nesting materials from bad weather. If birds are attacking the nesting holes, use a 1”-wide wire cloth and bubble it around the bee house. Do not install wire cloth flush against the nesting holes, as this will obstruct the bees from entering. Bees need some space for landing and taking off!

3. Provide nesting holes made of the right materials, in the proper size range

Natural, locally available nesting materials are best. For hole-nesting bees, cardboard tubes and lake reeds in the right size range are readily available online.

Avoid bamboo and plastic straws, as these do not let enough moisture escape, causing problems for developing bees. Nesting holes should be between 4–10 mm in size and should be about six inches long. (Nesting holes that are too shallow will skew the sex range of the next generation’s bees.) Many bamboo shoots are much too large for any North American bee to use.

Not all native solitary bees will use the same sort of nesting materials, so it’s a good idea to provide a range of options (as pictured above) to cater to all the locals.

Bee house with multiple nesting materials.
This bee hotel provides a number of different nesting materials for inhabitants.

4. Location and a word about predatory wasps

Orient the bee house to face the morning sun, as hole-nesting bees need the sun’s warmth to give them energy to fly. Placing two bee houses—each facing a slightly different direction—can produce even better results.

Most native bees prefer some afternoon shade, but too much shade could attract hole-nesting wasps. Solitary wasps are generally considered beneficial predators in a garden, as they attack pests like caterpillars, grubs, and aphids. However, they may also prey on the bee pupae in your bee house.

5. Protect developing bee larvae during the winter

Make sure that your bee house is accessible, so that you can easily remove filled nesting materials and store them in a warm, dry place. You’ll want to keep nesting materials in locations that have similar temperatures as the outdoors, like a garden shed or unheated garage. Removing and protecting filled nesting holes in something like a fine mesh bag helps to keep small parasitic wasps from attacking larvae.

Keep an eye on the filled nesting materials, as your bees may be a species (such as leafcutter bees) that produces multiple generations per season.

Harvesting bee cocoons. Photo by Crown Bees.
The inside of a bee’s nesting tube. Photo by Crown Bees.

6. Harvest bee cocoons each spring

After protecting and storing filled nesting materials over the winter, open materials and harvest cocoons in the early spring. If you can, organize and separate cocoons based on appearance and when their nesting holes were capped. With proper care, these cocoons will develop into a new generation of native bee pollinators and residents of your bee house!

Learn More

For more information on solitary bees and bee houses, see Native Bees: The Best Pollinators for Your Garden.

Learn about building your own bug hotel.

To learn about keeping honey bees, see our Beekeeping 101 series.


Reader Comments

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Changing Out Bee Tubes

The bee tubes look like they are the same size as cinnamon sticks. Would it hurt to place one cinnamon stick in place of a bee tube? Would the cinnamon stick detract bees from the house, or could it change the flavor of honey?

Cinnamon Sticks

The Editors's picture

That’s a very interesting idea! Cinnamon is naturally anti-fungal, which would be beneficial to the bees. However, most insects dislike the strong scent of cinnamon and will avoid it; bees would likely do the same! 

Male bees

I was wondering why I have bees hanging on my flowers in the evening and they are still there the next morning. In my search, I found that male bees don't have a home and this is where they 'hang' for the night. Do you know if these homeless male bees utilize the bee houses? I always feel bad for them as they are there in the cold, hail, rain, etc.
They seem to like my oregano flowers and I don't have many but this seems to be their home for quite a few bees.
Thanks kindly!

Link as to why to harvest bee cocoons

I found this link explaining why it’s important to harvest the bee cocoons. I never knew this was something that needed to be done prior to reading this article.

Bamboo, hanging & uncared for bee houses can ki

many of the practices discussed in this video (using bamboo, hanging from a string, not replacing materials each year) can kill the bees you’re trying to help. Plus reusing materials each year developed spider mites that kill bees. Please delete this video and add more complete information.

how far apart should beehouses be placed? 1 per garden? more?

how far apart should bee houses be placed? 1 per garden? multiple?

Bee House

Nope. Don't think I want to open the bee cocoons, and "harvest" anything. I will put out the bee house, but then they are on their own!

Native bee box question

Hello. I just recently bought a native beehouse at Costco that I hung next to my lavender bushes. I Water them every morning and walk through swarms of bumblebees and have never been stung. Am I putting myself at risk by putting the box right there next to them? Do I have to worry now that they will be territorial when I’m near that box and risk being stung?

native bees

The Editors's picture

Hi, Debbie, I’m not totally clear about your question but here is some background which may help. Your bee boxes are for solitary bees; bumblebees are a different type of bee which has a hive and a queen. Solitary bees are NOT territorial nor aggressive and won’t sting because they do not have a queen to protect.They are the big pollinators (not bumblebees) and they are too busy going about their work to bother with humans. They won’t sting you unless you squish them or threaten them! 

Bumble bees are a social species, with one egg laying queen; the hive normally consists of 50 to 200 bees. The stinger of a bumblebee has no barbs, unlike a honeybee. And bumblebees rarely sting but they will if provoked or made aggressive. First, it is important to be calm when working with bumblebees. Don’t wave your arm around or wear heavy perfumes. One way to avoid getting stung is to stay away from their hive. If your flowers or bee house is too near their hive, that could indeed be of some concern. Put your solitary beebox away from their hive.


Over winter

Do we leave the bee house out over winter and if did, is it ok to stay there for the next season anything I need to do...

Small Expert Constructed Single Bee Box?

Is there a "small bee box" with proper hole and tube size to attract pollinator (usually non-stinging non-colony bees) bees that make wasps and other bees not want to be in your garden? I buy the hummingbird feeders that will not feed wasps or bees - so possibly sort of engineered to exclude wasps and other bees that could otherwise cut leaves too much (oops! that's ants I think) - but "Mason bees" sound industrious - as if they would like to get into the holes in the house. I saw at a craft store (a Hobby Lobby) some small four by four inch bee tube "box houses" - with variable bee tube size entrance holes and tubes about three inches - but I did not buy them because I did not know what I might be encouraging.

Bee house

Will hollowed out corn cobs work, have a lot of those from feeding the squirrels.

mason bee house

Excited to have placed my bamboo mason bee house up this spring! INSTANTLY bees started using it & filling up hoes. I have about 19 filled holes now (October 2019). so now what do I do. I have read diff. things. Am I supposed to remove the house & sore in shed over winter. And your article says I need to open up the nests???????

Mason Bee House

I also would like to know why it;s necessary to open up the tubes and "harvest" the cocoons. Don't the bees hatch out themselves in the spring/summer?

Bee houses

Thank you so much for this article. I put out a bee home towards the end of last summer. I have 7 holes filled!! I just put the house back outside this past weekend as the weather is warmer. I can't wait to see the new bees arriving!! I also have plenty of flowers for them, plus the butterflies and hummingbirds too!!


I'm so happy to read about the success you are having with your bee home! I love the little sweethearts and am looking for the best habitat for my own yard. I liked this article very much, too.