Introduction: Make an Experimental Bee Hotel

About: Through innovative instructables, events, campaigns and citizen science we’re inspiring a community of urban Bee Saviour Citizens. Our ambition is to make our cities more bee friendly and biodiverse.

This is an experimental bee hotel design that makes use of the hardback books that charity shops often end up pulping because they have more than they can sell. We have yet to test this bee hotel over an entire season and so if you’d like to make one and join us in testing it this year we’d love to hear how it goes.


So what tool will you need?

  • scissors
  • a ruler or tape measur
  • a pen (one that can draw on the plastic and carton would be ideal)
  • something to make holes in the plastic (a punch or even scissors)
  • a chunky sewing needle
  • a screwdriver to fit your screws

What materials are you going to need?

  • a scrap hardback book with a cover roughly 20cm tall
  • super strong double sided tape
  • scrap bamboo to be cut into 15cm lengths (with 6mm - 11mm holes)
  • a used one litre Tetrapak carton
  • an old tarpaulin or some packaging plastic at least 20cm wide and at least 3 times the width of the cover
  • 120cm of garden string
  • three screws

Step 1: Watch Our ‘how To’ Video

This video will give you an overview of the process before you diving in.

Step 2: Get Rolling...

Okay so the first steps need your book, seven of your 150cm bamboo canes and the double sided tape.

  • Start in the middle of your book and decide which end is the back of your bee hotel and which end is the front. Line up your first bamboo cane with the back of the bee hotel, sit it on the page and cut the page to the length of the bamboo can.
  • Cut two lengths of double sided tape that are the same length as your bamboo. Stick one at the edge of your cut page and stick the other one on the same page but on the other side next to the fold/spine.
  • Remove the protective layer of the double sided tape so that it’s sticky and place your bamboo cane onto the double sided tape at the edge of the page
  • Repeat this process until all seven bamboo canes have been rolled into your book

Step 3: Add a Bundle

Okay so next up is a bamboo bundle wrap. Keep the double sided tape with you and get another eight bamboo canes.

  • Cut a page either side the bamboo that’s already rolled into your book. Cut these two pages to the same length as your bamboo as before
  • Cut a strip of double sided tape the length of your bamboo canes and sick it to the outside of one of the cut pages and unpeel the protective layer so that it’s ready to be stuck
  • Now pick up your book with one have and close it slightly so that the covers are making more of a V shape and with the other hand lay the eight bamboo canes in the middle. This is on top of the bamboo already rolled into the book and in between the fresh pages that you have just cut.
  • You’re now going to wrap the two freshly cut pages, with your free hand, around the eight loose bamboo canes and stick the pages together. They’ll be hugging the bamboo canes but maybe not too tightly... if the bamboo canes are loose inside the paper then slot in a few extra bamboo canes so that they fit tightly

Step 4: Give Your Bee Hotel a Back

Creating a back for your bee hotel is really important. A solitary bee needs to be confident that a predator doesn’t have easy access to her eggs via the back of a nesting tube. To make your back you need a 1 litre Tetrapak carton that’s been cleaned and dried.

  • measure 15cm from the base of your carton and either make a mark or a mental note of where this comes to
  • cut the top off the carton around the line 15cm from the base of the carton
  • the next step is to mark up your carton... you’ll need to shade two adjacent side and draw two parallel lines down the middle of the other two adjacent sides. These parallel lines need to be 4 cm apart on each of the two sides they’re drawn
  • cut the two shaded sides from the carton and cut down the parallel lines to the base. Then the corners from from the carton, cutting around the base, to leave two lengths 4cm in width projecting (is that the right word?) out of the base
  • lay the cut carton on the table and cut two pieces of double sided take to the same length as the lengths protruding from the base
  • now take your hardback book and stand it on the table with the back of the bee hotel (the back is the end of the bee hotel where the bamboo canes meet the edge of the page). Starting in the left take the pages that haven’t been used to hold bamboo and insert the first length of cut carton onto the middle of the pages
  • repeat this same action with the pages on the right (the video might help you visualise this step)
  • with the lengths of cut carton slotted in between the pages the base of the carton should now slide and so it is pressed against the back of the nesting tubes
  • hold the carton in this position while you peel the protective layer from the double sided tape to secure the carton lengths to the page their slotted in between

Step 5: Creating a Rain Jacket

Now to make the cover and the structure of the book weather proof. It’s fair to say in our testing the loose pages pucker with exposure to the weather and we think that’s great for other insects to shelter in but what you don’t want Is the spine and the structure to fall apart. For this step you need your plastic sheet. We used an old piece if packing material that is quite thick.

  • cut the plastic sheet to a width that matches the height of the book (this will be somewhere around 20cm if the book is going to shelter the nesting tubes)
  • lay the plastic length out on the table and use the book to measure a length of the plastic that is equivalent to three book cover widths
  • fold the plastic in half
  • cut a 60cm length of garden string and feed it in between the folded plastic sheets until it sits at the folded
  • place a peg at either side of the plastic strip 4 cm from the fold so that the string is contained between the fold and the pegs
  • cut another 60cm length of garden string and thread it onto a tough needle
  • now stitch the two sides of the folded piece of plastic together between the pegs
  • the final step is to attach the plastic to your book cover, the first step of which requires double sided tape
  • cut two lengths of double sided take the width of the plastic and place one at the edge of each cut end of the plastic on the inside
  • now pick up your hardback book and slide it in between the folded plastic, spine first, so that the spine ends up pushed against where you’ve just sewn a line of garden string
  • lift the pages that sitting on the book cover that’s sitting in the table top and tuck the end of the plastic sheet in between the inner cover and the pages
  • remove the protective layer from the double sided tape on this side and so it is sticky and stick the plastic sheet to the inner cover of the book
  • now switch your focus to the other book cover
  • take the unstuck end of the plastic sheet and tuck this in between the other book cover and the adjacent pages
  • pull the plastic taut, remove the protective layer from the double sided tape on this side and so it is sticky and stick the plastic sheet to the inner cover of this other side of the book

Step 6: Preparing to Install

Okay so you are nearly finished. The final two steps are all about preparing to secure your bee hotel so that it is a trust worthy place for a solitary bee to leave her eggs. For this step you need something to make a hole in the plastic layer; it could be a fancy punch but it could also be the scissors. The key thing is making a hole that will be secure. Fancy eyelets are a nice touch if you have them.

  • first steps are to take the string that should still be threaded through the rain jacket (plastic sheet) between the sewn line and the fold (you thought we’d forgotten about this right)
  • without removing it from its spot threaded through the plastic sheet thread one end onto your tough needle
  • feed this needle with the garden string attached through the bamboo nesting tube closest to the spine
  • when the string comes out of the other end of the bamboo nesting tube tie it to its other end, pulling it tight so that it secures the plastic sheet to the hardback book securely
  • cut any excess string from the bee hotel
  • the final step is to make three holes in the folded plastic sheet that protrudes from the top of the bee hotel. These holes should be evenly spaced so that when the bee hotel is installed it doesn’t swing or fall
  • you are now all set to secure the bee hotel to a secure surface like a wall or fence in a south facing position

Step 7: Installing a Bee Hotel Brilliantly

Getting your bee hotel installed well is the most important step if you want to see it used. Secure your bee hotel with screws of hooks through all three holes in the bee hotels plastic jacket.

These tips will increase your chances of your bee hotel being used:

  1. South facing – your bee hotel is going to host a solitary bee’s eggs and be the nursery for a solitary bee’s young before they leave the nest. The temperature of the spot you’re offering a solitary bee is important. South facing spots will get the warmth of the sun.
  2. 1 metre + above the ground – entrusting a bee hotel with your young is a big thing for a solitary bee and so ensuring it’s safe from predators is vital. Installing your hotel in a spot at least a metre above the ground will keep your bee hotel out of reach of predators.
  3. Secure so it won’t swing – before a solitary bee leaves its eggs it stores up a tiny mountain of pollen for its young to feed on when they hatch. If your bee hotel moves in the wind then the egg may get separated from this important first feed.
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