Hi Malcolm and Steve,
Malcolm: Yes, I have successfully used dry cow parsley stems in a solitary bee house. I made a wooden box, using a bird box design but without the front cover. I filled it with all sorts of dried hollow stems - especially Stipa gigantea (Golden Oat Grass), Sedum and cow parsley, all different sizes. I have attracted Red Mason bees (Osmia rufa/Osmia bicornis), two species of leafcutter bees, one yellow-faced bee species (Hylaeus sp.) and many tiny wasp species that nest in the smaller grass stems. They are fall ascinating to watch for hours and hours. They do not like the wet, so should be taken in over winter (though I admit I haven’t for the last 4 years).
The most important issues I have found so far with solitary bee nest boxes are:
1 - tubes should face South (SW to SE)
2 - box should be sheltered from prevailing rain/wind (best in sun trap under eaves or similar)
3 - tubes are most likely to be used if sited along wall, fence or hedge-lines as bees fly along these
4 - box should be between 3 to 6 foot from ground
5 - don’t use paint or varnish etc on wood
Steve: Unfortunately you are rather far north for the commonest user of bee hotels, the Red Mason bee - see BWARS map of distribution at
though you could prove this wrong in the next few years! I am not sure what other species might use your nest, perhaps some of the small black wasps?
You have done really well with your bee hotel.I have seen osmia rufa up here I think and also leafcutter bees but only seen them nesting in cracks in masonry and between steps.The winters seem to be getting colder up here so guess it’s difficult for them to survive through them.
Am concentrating on helping the more furry bumblebees and the mining bees.
This will probably fail…but I enjoyed making it anyway. I sited it a few feet away from where we had a buff tail nest a few years ago.
I had a vase-shaped terracotta pot that had a huge bite out of it (frost damage) sooooo I dug a big hole in the fern bed (part shade) and sank the pot in at an angle. Put the broken part over the end as a sort of weather porch…then stood a broken shard of pot so that it shelters the opening. I bought a bag of the shredded paper bedding that pet shops sell for hamsters…and pushed it into the hole to make it cosy. It will probably fill up with ants….but I enjoyed making it. Once the ferns start into growth it will be very sheltered.
A large queen was buzzing around that area this week…but I don’t think she was tempted.
saw your photo and think i would build some turf or soil or compost over the pot otherwise it might be vulnerable to temperature fluctuations.
have always kept pots mostly covered with just the hole exposed as the bees need to be able to regulate a constant temperature for their eggs and young.Don’t think they will use it like that though i maybe wrong as still can’t read their minds.
Thanks for the advice, the actea and ferns are growing up around it as we speak (I took the photo a while ago)....I think that I’ll cover the pot with bark when I mulch the fern bed and maybe encourage the epimediums to grow up over it as well. I don’t really expect to get any bumblebees this year anyway…but was hoping that as it gets more plants growing up and around the area then I may get something in future years.