The Birth of a Bee Hotel
so many of our followers on Twitter have encouraged and supported us during the construction of the Bee Hotel at Three Hagges Wood Meadow, I would like to dedicate this blog to all of them. But most of all, I would like to dedicate it to the accomplished young ecologist Ryan Clark, @RyanClarkNature, who was there at the beginning, guiding me as to the bees’ special needs, inspiring me to greater things, and giving me hope for the future of all our conservation efforts. If you’re reading this and ever get the chance to employ him, I hope you will cherish his considerable talents to the full.
The Bee Hotel will provide a home – we hope – for all that group of lesser known pollinators, the solitary bees. Their hardworking nature is reflected perhaps in their common names, the mason, mining, leafcutting and wool carder bees. The building of it was the work of many hands and offered the opportunity for education and involvement of our community of Friends and volunteers, and local businesses – Metal Mick Brown, of MDB Associates, the blacksmith and superstructure supremo, and Lindum Turf, who donated the material for the crowning turf roof. We have especially to thank Escrick Park Estate – the source of materials and labour, Bob and Tom, and the generous continued support of the wood-meadow project. Thank you Charlie and thank you Ros, Project Director, Hagge Woods Trust.
So here it is, step-by step:
Above: The fruits of the builders’ yard at Escrick Park Estate, during which gathering, I suffered the first of many insults received in the course of construction. Apparently, according to Bob, I have the sharp eyes of an outhouse rat. (He didn’t say outhouse!)
Above: The truck load of materials ready for transport to site. Driven and loaded by Bob.
Above: Ryan, Nicola and Caroline begin the initial layout of the hotel, on a bee of pallets, with materials having a range of different sizes of perforations to suit different species of solitary bee.
Above: Larger gaps in the structure are filled with cut bamboo canes; the bees will treat these hollow canes as their room in which they will make a nest for their young.
Above: Connor, Jessie and Caroline inspecting progress. We used floral foam – the green material, to fill the awkward gaps.
Above: the completion of Phase One illustrating the range of materials used.
Phase Two: Installation of roof support structure
The cunning plan in outline was to create a curvilinear roof structure, backfilled with rubble and covered with topsoil. The structure will provide shelter for the body of the hotel and support the turf roof, with some 28 species of meadow flower. The aim is also that the mound will merge seamlessly with the surrounding meadow, and allow observation from the top across the face of the hotel. Whilst, of course, since I am a hedonist at heart, also allowing the observer to lie supine among the meadow flowers.
Above: Metal Mick and crew install the supporting structure, square section aluminium frame, threaded steel rods as cross supports.
Above: Once satisfied with placement, both ends of frame were set into trenches and secured with long metal pegs to avoid flexing of the frame under the weight of rubble and topsoil to follow.
Above: I supervise Bob (!) in the gentle introduction of rubble backfill. It will ensure good drainage to the rear of the structure and form the bulk of the intended mound.
Above: Tom, the inscrutable digger operative.
Above: The moment at which I endure a second insult. This is what Bob called ‘testing the weight-bearing capacity.
Above: the addition of topsoil to form the mound.
Above: Completion of Phase Two. The topsoil will form the rooting medium for the turf roof.
Phase Three: installation of the turf roof
With input from our volunteers, and the team from Lindum turf, we laid the crowning glory of the bee hotel, the turf roof.
This one is called Waiting for Ryan. I hope he will come and join me this summer when our guests have moved in – and I’m relying on him for identification! Thank you for everything Ryan. Photo: Mike Cowling.