Aside from honeybees and bumblebees, most bees in the UK are solitary bees. As their name suggests, they don't live in bee hives, but nest on their own. In the wild, adult females lay their eggs in naturally occurring holes, cavities and tunnels, such as holes in dead wood or hard soil or in old plant stems. A bee hotel mimics these natural nesting areas.

Investing in a bee hotel or bee house can help support solitary bees, which are under pressure due to habitat loss. Not only is it fascinating to watch their comings and goings, but they are also efficient pollinators. The most common types of solitary bees in the UK are mason bees and leafcutter bees. Solitary bees are not aggressive as they have no queen, colony or honey to protect.

Bee houses are a simple way to do something to help our declining bee population, alongside adding lots of pollen- and nectar-rich bee-friendly plants, of course.

Lonicera Periclymenum Serotina A scented deciduous honeysuckle for early summer. It produces pink and white flowers and attracts wildlife. Photo: Jason Ingram
© Jason Ingram

When is the best time to put up a bee hotel?

Spring is the best time to put up a bee hotel – it's when potential residents are looking to find a nesting site.

Where to put a bee hotel

It's important to choose the right location for a bee hotel. Put it in a sunny spot, so that it will warm up quickly in the morning. Also ensure the tube entrances are sheltered from heavy or driving rain and strong winds. Ensure that the hotel is at least one metre above the ground, and unobscured by foliage so that the bees have an easy route straight to it.

How do I know the nest is being used?

You’ll know they’re nesting if you see bees flying in with pollen to store away for their young, or if the ends of the tubes are plugged with blobs of mud, fine hairs or bits of leaf.

Cleaning out your bee hotel

Check your bee hotel every year at the end of summer and get rid of any debris – mould or mites could harm the next inhabitants.

A red mason bee visiting a bee home
A red mason bee visiting a bee home

What to look for when buying a bee hotel

Check that your hotel is of good quality. Look for:

  • Ideally a range of holes of between 2-10mm in diameter - any more than this is too wide for most UK species, and means the bee has to work extra hard to fill it up.
  • Nesting tunnels and tubes should have a solid back – bees will not nest in a tunnel that is open at both ends.
  • The nesting tunnels need to be accessible so that they can be cleaned easily.
  • The entrances should be smooth, with no splinters, which can harm the bees.

The best bee hotels and bee homes for 2023

Solitary Bee Hive Hotel

Solitary Bee Hive Bug House Insect Home Hotel

Based on the shape of a traditional beehive, this is a home for solitary bees and other insects. It can stand on a flat surface, or be hung up on a wall or fence post, using the loop attached to the back. It comes with a brush so that you can easily clean each hole at the end of the season, and every layer is removable, so you can clean any stubborn areas – it also gives children an insight into how solitary bees make their homes. It would make a lovely gift for a wildlife lover or gardener.

Dimensions: 17cm x 17cm x 17.5cm

Bee Brick

Bee hive from Green and Blue

The Bee Brick is an innovative and stylish nesting site for solitary bees, created to look good standing on a solid surface somewhere in your garden, or even used in place of a standard brick in a new building. It is made in Cornwall from concrete, using up to 75% recycled material from the Cornish China clay industry.

More like this

Dimensions: 21.5cm x 10.5cm x 6.5cm

Wildlife World Dewdrop Bee and Bug Hotel

Dewdrop bee and bug hotel

This bee and bug biome has an unusual dewdrop shape, making it an attractive feature in your garden. It contains bamboo nesting tubes and a drilled log ideal for solitary bee nesting. It is made from FSC certified timber with a decorative woven bamboo finish. Replacement tubes are also available.

Shetland Rectangular Bee House

Bee hive from Garden Trading

The Shetland bee house is a sweet and subtle bee hive house that would easily slot into any garden. It’s another design which can hang on a wall, making it pretty discreet.

Bee B&B

Bee B&B

This honeycomb-style Bee B&B is made from certified sustainable timber and is packed with natural bamboo tubes. The apex roof has a generous overhang to help rainwater run off, protecting the wood, and is painted with a non-toxic low VOC paint so as not to harm the wildlife that will use it.

Dimensions: 25cm x 24cm x 9.5cm

Bee Hotel Ustica

Bee hotel Ustica

This wooden bee hotel has an attractive green sloped roof and is discreet yet stylish. It would look great attached to a wall or fence.

Dimensions: 11.5cm x 17cm x 38cm


Veronica Peerless is a trained horticulturalist and garden designer.