Make a Place for Your Pollinators to Call Home

Simple steps for creating a sanctuary for bees and other pollinators.
A Finished Pollinator Habitat

A Finished Pollinator Habitat

It's easy to create an environment that shelters the pollinators so essential to a garden's eco-system.

Photo by: Image courtesy of Ashley English

Image courtesy of Ashley English

It's easy to create an environment that shelters the pollinators so essential to a garden's eco-system.

Join us in welcoming noted homesteader and author Ashley English, who will be sharing her crafty ideas with HGTVGardens. Ashley is the author of four books in the Homemade Living Series (Canning & PreservingKeeping ChickensKeeping BeesHome Dairy), as well as A Year of Pies, all from Lark Crafts. She lives in Candler, North Carolina with her husband, their young son and a menagerie of animals.

Apples, almonds, blueberries, chocolate—who doesn’t love those foods? It’s with immense thanks to pollinators that we’re able to consume those tasty fruits, nuts and other crops. Honeybees are one such pollinator, but there are many other winged creatures that work tirelessly, spreading pollen around a plant, as well as from one plant to the next. Given the amount of work those creatures perform to ensure that the foods we love grow and thrive, it seems fitting to give back in return. Creating habitats and shelter for wild pollinators is one way we can show our gratitude. They’re easy to build and lovely to behold. 

When it comes to constructing wild pollinator houses, there’s no point in limiting the creative possibilities.

Pollinator House How-To

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A Finished Pollinator Habitat

It's easy to create an environment that shelters the pollinators so essential to a garden's eco-system.

Photo By: Image courtesy of Ashley English

Assemble Your Supplies

I made my houses here from wood, which absorbs moisture. This creates an advantage over those made with plastic parts, which can cause pollen inside the tubes and holes to spoil. Bamboo tubes would be another good material to use here.

Photo By: Image courtesy of Ashley English

Create the Framework of Your House

You can build a simple wooden box, use an old one, or pop the front off of a wooden birdhouse and use that. The front is the open side. It is good to have a little roof over your house, which can be as simple as a slightly pitched board, as with the one shown here. You don't want to paint the interior of the house, or the dowels, because the pollinators don't like the paint.

Photo By: Image courtesy of Ashley English

Find Shelves and Dowels to Fit Your House

The house you build can be as tall or wide as you like, as long as you create evenly-spaced holes, from about 3.5" to 6" inches deep. Separate the levels within the house using 1/4" inch thick boards cut to fit the box that you choose. Any other piece of wood that fits is just fine too.

Photo By: Image courtesy of Felicia Feaster

Add Your Dowels

Use a combination of 3/8" and 1/2" inch square dowels, cut to the depth of your box (these are readily available at home building supply stores). Space the dowels evenly apart. A handy trick is to use dowels of the same thickness to get even spacing and then remove them. According to some experts, it helps the pollinators to recognize their own hole from the others if the entrances aren't too uniform, so it can be good to cut some of the dowels a teeny bit shorter while leaving others a bit longer, giving a bit of 3-dimensional interest to the front.

Photo By: Image courtesy of Ashley English

Enlist a Helper

If you want, after arranging the dowels where you want them to be, pull each dowel out a little, put a drop of glue on top, and slide them back in, so that they stay in place. You can also just leave them loose if you like, which allows you to take it apart later so that you can see the activity in the house, as well as clean it out, if need be. For young people interested in the life cycle of the creatures, being able to take the house apart is very useful, and it also helps you to unclog holes or weed out unwanted creatures.

Photo By: Image courtesy of Ashley English

Finished House

Go ahead and paint the roof and sides if you like, as that adds a fun splash of color to the garden, and helps protect the house from the elements, allowing it to last longer.

Photo By: Image courtesy of Ashley English

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