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Everything You Need to Know About Bee Bricks

By George Hadgelias

Both here in Australia and overseas, bee bricks (or bee blocks) are the latest buzz around town. But what are they and how do they work?

Ever heard of bee bricks? If not, you’re likely to become very familiar with them. These new and rather nifty bricks are designed to provide shelter to bees and give them a spot to nest.

They’re also making headlines in the UK, as some councils are now mandating that new builds include bee bricks in an effort to combat their bee population crisis.

If you’re wondering what all the buzz is about, here’s what you need to know about bee bricks.

What are bee bricks or bee blocks?

Bee bricks or bee blocks are special types of bricks that act as nesting spots for solitary bees.

Created by UK garden product manufacturer, Green&Blue, bee bricks are made from concrete and have small cavities where bees can nest, lay eggs, and plug the holes with mud or chewed-up vegetation to protect their offspring.

The back of each brick is entirely solid, meaning no bees can get through to the cavity wall.

The idea behind bee bricks is that they provide a safe nesting site for bees in the face of declining bee populations all around the world.

The bricks are intended for solitary bees – that is, bees that aren’t producing honey or protecting a queen. These bees typically aren’t aggressive so are much less likely to sting.

Where do you use bee bricks?

Bee bricks are pretty versatile. A single brick can be used as a standalone feature in the garden or on a balcony, or bricks can be grouped together to form a small bee house.

But because they’re made from concrete and have solid backs, they can also be used in place of standard bricks in construction.

Bee bricks generally need to be at least one metre off the ground, but there’s no limit to how high they can be placed.

They should also be in a warm and sunny spot, ideally on a north-facing wall, with nothing in the way of the cavities – even vegetation.

Plants that attract bees

To encourage bees to make use of the bee bricks, it’s best to place them near bee-friendly plants such as flowering Australian natives.

And it should go without saying that chemical use in the garden is best avoided.

  • Lavender
  • Honeysuckle
  • Daisies
  • Bottlebrush
  • Grevillea
  • Tea tree
  • Westringia
  • Honey myrtle

Do bee bricks work and are they any good?

While the theory around bee blocks providing habitat for bees sounds good, in reality some experts claim they may do more harm than good because they can increase likelihood of disease and don’t improve overall biodiversity.

Critics argue that if the tiny cavities aren’t adequately cleaned they could become havens for mites or generate disease that may actually be harmful to bees.

They also say the bricks don’t do a whole lot to improve chances for bees to thrive in general, and that growing bee-friendly plants and avoiding using chemicals in the garden could be more effective at helping struggling populations of bees.

There’s also no guarantee that if you install a bee brick, the bees will come.

The jury’s still out on whether bee bricks need to be cleaned. It’s an area of research Green&Blue is currently working on.

However, if you do wish to clean your bee bricks, it’s recommended you do so once the bees have cleared out.

You don’t have to do a whole lot to keep a bee brick clean. Here are the basic steps:

  1. Grab a long, thin tool that’ll fit in the small holes – something like a tent peg, pipe cleaner or cotton swab is ideal
  2. Gently insert the tool into each cavity and scrape away any loose debris
  3. If you’ve got a single bee brick that’s not part of a building, you can tip it gently to remove any excess debris

Alternative bee houses to bee bricks

If you’re looking for a different kind of bee hotel, there are plenty of other options on the market.

1. Nesting boxes

These houses work in a similar way to bee bricks in that they usually have small cavities where bees can nest. However, they’re designed to be standalone features in your garden rather than integrated into buildings. They come in a range of sizes and styles to suit all kinds of gardens, and some can be hung from trees or beams.

2. Beekeeping boxes

If you want to take your hobby one step further, home beekeeping boxes are widely available. They allow you to cultivate your own hive and harvest your own honey, but they are a lot of work.

You’ll need to keep the internal conditions just right (think things like ventilation, pest control, extracting wax and honey, and so on) and the colony will need to be closely managed so they don’t get out of hand.

There are also certain obligations you’ll need to meet and it’s likely you’ll have to register with a state or territory body. Chat to your local council if you want to know more.

That being said, beekeeping can be a lot of fun and you’ll be rewarded with a steady supply of delicious honey – so even though you’ll be busy as a bee maintaining your hive, you’ll no doubt get quite a buzz out of it.

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