Introduction: Creating a Bee House

Bee houses are a great way of providing cover and additional spaces for to raise young bees. Primarily, bee houses serve shelter for mason bees that does not live in nests or hives; it uses holes that are already available in trees or wooden blocks. Male mason bees do not sting, and female mason bees only sting rarely. Thus, putting a bee house in your garden is not only fairly undangerous, it is an excellent option for giving shelter to the common bees. The expected lifespan of this bee house, assuming it is permanently outside, is about two years.

Step 1: Materials

The materials needed for bee houses are pretty simple. Bee houses can be made out of a variety of recycled materials, let your imagination lead you! For this bee house however, you need the following basic materials:

- Five ply wood or MDF wood sheets (or an old cupboard)

- several types of wooden blocks

- Wooden logs

- Flower pots

-Bamboo sticks

- Light paint

For Materials you will require:

- A reliable, big saw

- A drill

- Paintbrush n

- Small saw

- A drill attachment that preferably is 10 cm long and has a maximum of 10 mm of diameter

- A pencil

- An eraser

- A ruler (these are for marking the wood for more organization)

-Glue

Feel free to use other materials such as reeds, bamboo canes, etc. Note that you don't want to use wood from conifers, as these are less durable than most other kinds of wood.

Step 2: Cutting the Wood

As next step, you want to cut the blocks of wood so that they all have a similar length. In my version, the blocks are 20 centimeters long. You should take your ruler and pencil to mark the wood that so you cut the correct length. It is helpful to have the wood fixed onto something on the table as this will prevent the wood from moving and thus make the sawing easier and safer.

When sawing, try to remain a steady and regular speed. As you go ahead, it will get easier and you can increase the speed.

Step 3: Drilling Holes in the Logs and Wood

After you cut the wood to the right dimensions, you should now drill holes in them to actually provide a habitat for the bees.

The amount of holes are up to you, however be careful of putting too many holes in a log, as that can make them instable. The holes should be more or less 10 centimeters deep, and must have a diameter of at least two and up to 10 milimeters.

Look for a fitting attachment of the drill and roughly mark where you want to put the holes. Then slowly start the drill and accelerate in speed rapidly to drill the hole. If you have the desired amount of holes, drill in them again to remove uneven parts and splinters. This will make the inner surface of the holes smoother which then makes it easier for bees to prepare their habitats for breeding and more.

Step 4: Cutting the Bamboo Sticks or Canes

This steps sounds by far easier than it actually is. You want to get quite a few bamboo sticks or canes, because the number of tall bamboo sticks needed to fill a small flowerpot can be overwhelming and easily underestimated. First of all, measure how deep your flowerpot is with your ruler. Now, cut all of the bamboo in the length you measured, so they all have the same length and don't unregularly stick out of the flowerpot. Small length differences do not harm the eventual outcome of the bee house. When sawing, move the saw regularly, concentrated, and slowly. After cutting a bamboo stick, use it as an indicator for cutting the next stick. Try to estimate how many bamboo sticks you will be needing for the entire flowerpot and cut as many as you will need.

Step 5: Filling the Flowerpot

Then, put the stick in the flowerpot and continue. Stick myriad bamboo sticks in the flowerpot to make them hold by themselves. If you are done, remember that no bamboo stick should move to assure absolute stability.

If there is still space, consider cutting smaller pieces so everything in the flowerpot fits tightly. The bamboo sticks you collected do not necessarily have to have a hole in them already, as bees can remove the filling themselves if it is required. In the picture above you can see how about your flowerpot should look like.

Step 6: Cutting the Wood Planks for the Main Box

Now you should have one (or two if you chose to make two) flowerpots and several logs. The next step would be to create the outer or main chassis which will be filled up with the materials you got. If you don't know the measurements beforehand, assemble the materials as you would in the box and take the measurements. The box should have one or two open sides, depending on whether you will put it on a fence or a wall etc. You can use plywood or MDF wood as outer chassis. If you chose to use an old cupboard that has 5 sides in total, you can skip this step.

Primarily, get all the materials you need for this task: your five wood sheets with type of your choice and either wooden glue or a hot glue gun. My example has measurements of 26x22x28.5 (centimeters), with seven wooden logs, one flowerpot , and several extra bamboo sticks, but the measurements are entirely optional and up to you. Mark the wood with your pencil and either take a saw or a cutting machine, because plywood for example can also be cut with a cutting machine. Then slowly and steady cut all of the boards. To make it easier later, you can put the measurements on the boards directly.

Step 7: Building the Main Box

If you got all five sides, start gluing them together using either wood glue, like the Frankling Titebond wood glue for example, or a glue gun. Spread the glue evenly along only one of the two short sides you will be gluing together, and be careful to not put the glue too near on the edge, as the glue will ooze out when you press the two sides together. Try to glue the outer core first, and then lastly gluing the back piece last.

Step 8: Filling in the Bee House

Now that you have all materials, all you have to do now is trying to find good positions of your logs and other materials inside bee house. Take a log and put glue equally on the opposite side where you drilled the holes. If that side is uneven, either sand it or cut it off using your trusty saw. Then press the log on the back side of the outer box and wait for approx. 20-30 seconds. Continue with this procedure and try to fit the flowerpot in somewhere in the middle to give it a good hold. For extra stability, you can also put some glue on the sides of the logs if their sides are parallel to another log so that the logs are fixed in several sides. There will probably be some hollow spaces; in these spaces, you can fit some bamboo sticks that have the same length as your box is deep.

To do that, measure the bamboo stick from the beginning and make a quick pencil mark to indicate the length you want to cut. Then with regular and steady sawing, cut the bamboo stick to the right length. The stick might hold by just sticking it into the spaces, but if not you can put a pea-sized blob of glue on one side of the bamboo stick and press it on the back of the box for a small amount of time.

Step 9: Painting the Bee House

Great job so far! This step is fairly simple compared to the other steps. You want to choose light colors such as sky blue or grass green, as that attracts bees the most. Waterproof colors would be advantegous as well, however depending on the location of the bee house and which country you live in, you might not need waterproof colors.

Start painting the three sides and finally paint the top side last. Do not paint any of the logs or flowerpots as that decreases stability and can also repel bees in some cases. Optionally, you can add multiple layers of paint to increase the quality but bee (excuse the pun) careful of making the color too dark.

Step 10: Placing the Bee House in a Good Location

Now that you are done, bees can occupy the bee house. However, the position of the bee house is crucial, as a wrong space will likely repel all bees. The holes of the bee house have to face south to attract the maximum amount of bees. Also, the fence or wall you put the bee house on has to be sunny. If spiderwebs are close the bee house or even in it, the location is to dark and/or dank. Also, try to provide about one to three meters close to the bee house, as that is important for building nests. Other than that, bee houses can be placed almost anywhere. By building and placing a bee house, you are helping out the nature quite a bit by making it easier for the bees to cover longer distances.

Comments

author
SLOPhoenixes (author)2016-09-30

Hi,

Can anyone tell me how well bee homes like these actually work, and if so, how many bees you would have nesting? I am very interested in building one and would love to see if it has obvious positive results.

author
MikeTeachman (author)2015-05-30

It's great that you are promoting solitary bee habitats. We need these bees to help with pollination. One important thing I want to comment on .... based on what the bee experts say, the flower pot with reeds is the preferred design. With reeds or paper tubes, it is possible to harvest the bee cocoons at the end of the season. Holes drilled in wooden blocks are often described as "bee cemeteries". I'm sure that you did not know this when you created your Instructable.

from Crown Bees:

http://crownbees.com/shop/mason-bees/woodtray/drilled-mason-bee-block

"Drilled blocks were popular years ago as an easy, affordable way to support solitary bee nesting. However, it’s now known that drilled blocks can become “bee cemeteries” and homes to pests and diseases. They are impossible to harvest bees, since you can’t open the blocks. We want bees to thrive, not just survive to pollinate our food supply. There are better solutions for ensuring healthy bee production."

author
JennieA1 (author)MikeTeachman2015-06-08

Great info - only, what does one do after one harvests the bee cocoons - do you keep them in your house until spring? Would love to know as I'd like to help these little critters out.

author
MikeTeachman (author)JennieA12015-06-12

Crown bees publishes a how-to guide for harvesting, cleaning, and storing cocoons. It's the best resource I've seen so far. Link below.

https://crownbees.com/media/wysiwyg/BeeFiles/Harve...

They discuss two ways to store cocoons: in your refrigerator and outside. I've tried both with about equal results (>80% of cocoons emerging in the spring). The techniques they recommend are similar to what I learned in a two-part course that I took from a local bee expert.

For cleaning the cocoons, I recommend the Gord Hutchings "Sand Wash Method". I put clean beach sand into a mason jar, add the cocoons, and then shake vigorously. Finally, sift out the sand as described in the guide. It really works well to strip off any pests that are attached to the cocoons.

I hope this helps. It's rewarding to create habitat for these bees and watch them go to work.

author

Hey WestCoastMaker, I am aware that it is possible to harvest bees using papertubes and that the normal blocks can potentially be infested with diseases. The bee house was designed for a more "casual" user, which means that they did not plan and/or wish to harvest the bees, which indeed is possible. Furthermore, the bee house was supposed to hold for about two years. The general location and country you place the bee house in greaty affects how fast infections and diseases infest bee houses. In a lot of the of cases, diseases can start to appear after about two years of outside use.

Thank you for your feedback, I will definetely mention that the recommended outside lifespan of this kind of bee house is about two years.

author
ZDOG3533 (author)2015-06-04

yeah are bees just make there own holes

author
animeguard (author)2015-05-31

what unique bee house, nice idea

author
amberrayh (author)2015-05-29

This is an awesome project and your Instructable has so much great information about mason bees. Thank you for sharing! You should enter this in the Backyard Contest.

author

Thank you for the feedback! I will make sure to enter this instructable in the contest. Have a great day.

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