Invite Garden Pollinators with a Mason Bee House
Make your garden even more pollinator-friendly by building a DIY mason bee house. It’s easy!
If you don’t know much about native bees, then you might have heard that mason bees are a nuisance. They burrow holes in your house for their nests, people might say. You should poison them because they’re pests, people might tell you.
Of course, you know better than that! Mason bees are part of our native bee population, and they’re valuable pollinators, especially for fruit trees. They rarely sting, and they never swarm. If they do nest in a crack in your eaves, it’s because our urban habitat doesn’t provide enough naturally-occurring nesting spots for these vulnerable creatures.
Help a bee out, why don’t you, by building your very own DIY mason bee house?
You can build a scrap wood mason bee house here, but in this tutorial, I’ll show you how my entire Girl Scout troop and I built hanging mason bee houses out of fallen wood. It’s a great afternoon project that can really improve the quality of your neighborhood’s native wildlife population.
DIY Mason Bee House
You will need:
fallen wood. The holes that you’ll drill will be at least 6″ deep, and the house needs an overhanging roof, so a piece of wood about 8″ deep ought to do it.
saw. I used a chainsaw, because I’m a badass, but a handsaw would also work.
drill and drill bits. You do have to be a little bit picky about your drill bit here. The ideal dimensions for the holes that you’ll be drilling are 5/16″ x 6″. Now, 5/16″ drill bits don’t always come in your standard drill set, and 6″ long drill bits definitely don’t, so you may have to ask around for one to borrow, or make the investment if you plan to make mason bee nests every year. Because a paddle drill bit is easier for kids to use, I gave the kids in my Girl Scout troop a 5/16″ x 3″ spade drill bit to use, then came in after them with a regular 5/16″ x 12″ bit.
materials for hanging. Use what you’ve got. I’ve hung the mason bee nest in the top photo using a chain and two nails.
1. Saw the house shape. Using a chainsaw or handsaw, cut a piece about 8″ long from a fallen log, then cut another 1″ out of about 3/4 of it to make a roof. I did this by notching into the wood with the chainsaw, then cutting down to cut off the notched section.
2. Drill the holes. The more closely you space the holes, the more mason bees can nest in your house, obviously, but it’s not such a deal-breaker if you don’t have a ton of holes. I permitted the kids in my troop to drill their holes wherever they wanted, so some kids ended up with tons of holes, and other kids ended up with three!
3. Hang the house. Mason bees do have some predators, primarily among birds, so you’ll want to hang your mason bee house away from your bird feeder, and I’ve also seen mason bee nests that include an outer fencing of chicken wire to protect them from being picked up as they warm up at the entrances to their nests in the early morning sun.
On the other hand, bees and chickens tend to go well together, so a mason bee nest is likely to work well near a chicken coop, and if the mason bees seem to like nesting in your shingles, then a neatly-drilled nest nearby might tempt them away. And, of course, if a mason bee house was hung in your garden, then the mason bees wouldn’t have very far to go to pollinate your flowers!
Note: Because parasites and diseases are a concern for these vulnerable bees, you should discard this mason bee house every year and make the bees a new one. Toss the old one on the fire pit and invite some friends over for an afternoon of native habitat enrichment!
Republished with permission from Crafting a Green World.