Introduction: Make Your Own Little Bee Houses

So I stopped by my local Ace Hardware on my way home to look at some parts for another project, and as I was leaving, I noticed these little bee home things for $10 made from a small half log, two small boards, and some plant tube things. I had to stop and commit to make a few of these for myself and/or friends, just because it's a super easy project  When I got home, I saw that the 'I could make that' contest had been posted, and it almost blew my mind. 

I've made a larger bee home a while back just for the heck of it, and I was actually surprised to find it inhabited a few weeks ago. Since the bee population is kind of on the decline with all the chemicals being used everywhere and whatnot, it's good to try and help them out with places to nest so that they can continue to pollinate your fruits and berries. 

This is just a real easy project, great to put up around the house or even better, in the garden to attract those helpful bees. Really, the bees will nest in any holes that are in a safe and dry space, so this can be made from a wide range or scrap materials. 

Materials: (suggested)
  • a few scrap boards/planks
  • a log or two
  • Nails and Hammer
  • Drill or Drill Press
  • Some kind of Chop, Miter, Slide, or Circulating Saw to cut the boards. A good hand saw, if that's all you have, will do. 
  • Sand paper, if you want it to look nice

Step 1: Materials

     For this project, you can pretty much use any chunk of wood you have lying around. Other than than that, you need a few flat boards, such as shingles, and some board to attach it to. I'm pretty sure the shingles don't actually make the bees want to move in any more than without them, but they make the finished project look kind of cute. 

     I figure the best way to do this is to have your bee house attached to something solid such as a post or tree, although I have seen ones that are meant to hang from something, but that seems like it wouldn't be so good in the wind. You can choose either way, but I go with attaching them to something solid with a backboard. 

Step 2: Cutting Your Blocks to Size

    Since you can really get any deeper than what you drill bit can reach, that's about how long the logs should be. Just eyeballing the first  one, it pretty much just needs to be cut in half, same as the one to the right, the block to the left being pretty good size already.

Remember, safety first! Ear protection is a must when operating loud saws! Feel free to use eye protection as well. 

I went ahead and cut the split log on the slide saw that I usually use, but the round log was too large a diameter, so I used my chop saw on it. 

Now I have 5 pieces to choose from to start my bee house. 

Step 3: Drilling the Holes

Now it's time to drill the holes, which is half of the project in itself. An electric hand drill would work as well, but I found my drill press to be much more suitable. I drilled down as far as I could with the bit and my press, which was around 3-4 inches. The split log took a bit longer since it's some kind of semi-hardwood, but I eventually got it done. For something this size, a minimum of 16 holes seems good. 

Now, there are a few things I chose not to do here. The first, I did not make any kind of markings as to where I wanted the holes, I just drilled in a more or less organized fashion. The spacing is important, so I kept them far enough apart, but the overall layout doesn't really matter to the bees nor to me. The second, I did not use any other size bit, only a 3/8 bit, so there might be some bees that might not be able to live here. I might use other bits in the future, but not this time. 

I encourage everyone to do their own research on this, as I am only covering the simplest way possible to make a bee home. 

Step 4: Fitting the Shingles

Since this is supposed to resemble a small house, the shingles will be used for the 'roof'.

First, I just stood them up about how they needed to be, and marked about how long I wanted them. After that, I went and cut them both on the slide saw, which I didn't get a picture of. Next, you just nail them on real quick. I just used these little nails, four of them for each side.
The shingles were a bit to wide for the split log piece, so I had to chop them up a bit; I'm sure you can compensate for whatever for  you use. 
After you get the shingles marked, cut, and nailed on, you should have a block of would that hopefully now resembles a small house. Very enticing to those Mason bees that need homes. 

Do your best not to put the nails into the holes you drilled. 

Step 5: Attaching the Backboard

Next, I just laid the house on the board I planned to cut up for the backboard and once again, eyeballed about where to cut, and measured to the nearest inch. I marked it, and cut a few lengths to use. Attaching them is easy, just turn it over and pound a few nails in there. The little nails seemed good enough for this too, so I didn't bother looking for longer ones. Again, try not to nail into the holes. 

Step 6: Finishing It Up

As it is, you bee house should be good to go. You may be someone who likes their creations to look nice, however, so feel free to sand it, make it look good, maybe paint the outside, but I wouldn't recommend putting any paint or stain or anything on the hole surface. 

Naturally, I chose not to sand it or do anything special, but that's just me. 

Step 7: Nail It Up!

Now that you're done, you can go attach it to somewhere! The best place is probably in or near your garden, if you have one, but anywhere is really fine. Just pick any secure wooden structure such as a tree, post, a tall fence, etc. Also, I believe it is best to have them facing east or southeast so that the bees will get the morning sun as early as possible. I hope you're looking forward to having new neighbors! 

If nothing else, I hope this at least inspires you to look up some better and more detailed ways of creating homes for bees, since they are a vital part of our way of life, and the threat to them from pesticides and what not is very real. 

Step 8: Example

So this is the one I made a while ago, that has been nailed up in my garden for a month or two. As you can see, at least a few bees have taken up residence here, which I think is pretty cool. I even used a bit old roofing for added visuals, however unnecessary it is. 

Thank you for reading!

Comments

author
albinopieball1 made it! (author)2017-01-24

Concerning mason and leaf cutter bee houses are nothing but parasitic wasp paradise. I've never gotten either of these to over winter without parasitic wasp destroying them. Its to much egg laying in one area parasitic wasp magnet. In the wild they hide nests much better and lay small amount of eggs in various locations insuring some survive. Just another gimmick to get your money and when you find out the truth its already money in their pocket or time wasted building and buying materials.

author
MasonBees made it! (author)2016-11-14

Wonderful and decent idea, I found this much helpful bee houses ideas. The perfect size house for any garden and orchard. Thanks for such post and keep it up.

author
SLOPhoenixes made it! (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
cart562 made it! (author)cart5622016-10-23

They work, but only to an extent. If you want to be serious about helping these nomadic bees, then build something that accommodates those removable paper tubes so you can clean them each year, or something made of layers of wood that you can disassemble to clean. There is a lot more than meets the eye concerning these guys and I encourage you to look at several sites to research.

author
jbodden1 made it! (author)2013-08-06

Better take another look, These are NOT bees. I have had much expericence with these 'grass wasps' or 'leaf wasps' filling every hole they can find, especially in insulated materials like wood or plastic. They just love to plug fire extinguishers (dry chem types) nozzles and the ground holes of electrical plugs. They make nests of cut leaves glued together inside the hole, then lay eggs and stuff the nests with still living insects. True bee deaths are a tragic loss, to us and the biosphere, but these items will do not one single solitary thing to save the life of even ONE actual bee. These are just the true and simple facts of the matter.

author
DIY-Guy made it! (author)DIY-Guy2016-04-18

These are designed for Mason Bees which pollinate apples and other very early flowering fruits in northern latitudes. Without Mason Bees doing their pollinating, the honey bees would come on the scene much too late to do the job.

Sure, some wasps may (or may not) come, but these are habitats designed for the early pollinators- Mason Bees.

author
TheRevJester made it! (author)TheRevJester2013-08-06

Did they perhaps look like this: http://www.flickr.com/photos/snapperz/4114956729/
These are leafcutter bees. If you see tiny wasps emerging, they may have been the victim of parasitizing wasps (see later comment.)

author
TheRevJester made it! (author)2013-08-06

Please PLEASE don't use these for more than a year!
Mason bees and other solitary bees will accumulate parasites in houses like these. Most commonly pollen mites.
I suspect those who have seen leaves fill with wasps have seen victims of Monodontomerus (Parasitic wasp). Probably leafcutter bees.
There are many species of solitary bees.
If you make a house like this and attract mason bees (mud-filled holes) in the spring, you should harvest them in the fall or put it in a paper bag with a hole in it when they start emerging. This will prevent them from going back into the previous "house" which will spread pollen mites.
An amazing resource for information is here: http://www.crownbees.com/category/questions/pests-questions/
and here:
http://www.crownbees.com/category/what-to-do/harvesting-cocoons-in-the-fall/
No, I don't work for them but seriously admire his BeeGAP program and his knowledge.

author
DIY-Guy made it! (author)DIY-Guy2016-04-18

Some articles advise lining the holes (an pre-drilling them slightly larger) with paper tube inserts, and then removing and replacing the paper liners once a year. This appears to prevent disease for these Mason Bee homes.

Mason Bees, are not honeybees which most people have seen in hive boxes.

author
cart562 made it! (author)cart5622013-08-12

I will certainly take a look at that site and learn a bit, thank you.

author
Bella_017 made it! (author)2015-11-11

I used your instructions to build a little bee house with my daughter, thank you very much :)

author
diy_bloke made it! (author)2013-09-26

Great project. Can also use some bamboo cut to size and make sure it is cut just below the knot and you have some open tubes. tie them together and put a little roof on top like pictured in this instructable

author
onef made it! (author)2013-08-06

This is really cool, but people really should understand that you should never encourage wild bees to nest within 5-10 miles of an airport or sea port.

Doing so could spread parasites, disease, and other bee-killing bad stuff.

It's also worth mentioning if you have wood siding, this should be pretty far from your house to prevent larger hives from developing in your walls.

author
dsantil71 made it! (author)dsantil712013-08-17

Carpenter bees are the ones that bore holes in wood fencing and siding but only if it is not painted. If the wood fencing or siding you have is painted then don't worry. They can get through stained & untreated wood definitely.

author
TheRevJester made it! (author)TheRevJester2013-08-06

Solitary bees seldom wander farther than 1000ft from home. Honey bees wander several miles, and bumblebees farther still.
Solitary bees that would nest in these holes are unlikely to be a problem unless you live nearly literally next door to a port of any type.

author
Twetwe made it! (author)2013-08-11

Great look. i love it. I never though about using old logs. Bees are attracted to carbon. You could use a torch before you attach the roof and torch the front. It will make a nice contrast effect and attract more bees too. Also if you can get a little bit longer bit and drill all the way through you can attach the Back with screws and be able to clean out the holes after the holes have been used for the season and be ready for the next season.

author
cart562 made it! (author)cart5622013-08-12

Two very good tips, thank you. I'm just starting to get into this, so thanks.

author
bignail1954 made it! (author)2013-08-07

I am no expert on bees but I believe 5/16" bits work best for honey bees. Making a fake front with a hollow middle and limiting the hole to 6 near the top under "the canopy" . I believe you will attract more bees.

author
Lilbear11 made it! (author)2013-08-07

Do they pay rent?

author
dpark76 made it! (author)2013-08-06

...and you would want venomous insects flying around your house, why?

author
TheRevJester made it! (author)TheRevJester2013-08-06

Many solitary bees, like mason bees, are essentially stingless.

author
jbodden1 made it! (author)jbodden12013-08-06

ps, when will comments be editable? it would be a great addition... that being said, these 'wasp traps' are good for keeping the wasps out of other things. These are NOT stinging wasps, afaik, but they are really good at keeping the spider population down.

author
jbodden1 made it! (author)jbodden12013-08-06

leaf wasps do not attack people, at least I have never heard of it.

author
cart562 made it! (author)cart5622013-08-06

To scare my friends (: More like because I love all of my berries, fruits, etc. that grow around here, and they wouldn't exactly do much without help from bees. I actually have wasp nests under the eaves of my roof all the way around my house, but I've been stung once in the past year or so, and that was because we were throwing boards near their home.

author
digital_gods made it! (author)2013-08-04

It's a great project for everywhere but Texas. In Texas, wasps would take up residence in it. If bees were to take up residence, it would probably be Africanized killer bees.

author
bryan3141 made it! (author)bryan31412013-08-06

Africanized "killer" bees are a variety of honey bee which is very aggressive. They do not nest in small holes such as the ones being created here, they nest in larger openings such as hollow logs or moderate sized openings in your house's walls.

As for the wasps, most likely, but that's true no matter where you are in the lower 48.

author
jakerobinson made it! (author)jakerobinson2013-08-06

actually I have a friend in Dallas that has a huge Mason bee network and lots of people providing Mason bee house is like this and its thriving. It is not true that Africanized bees will take up this type of space. Africanized bees are honeybees- just more aggressive than regular honey bees. No type of honey bee would take up this type of house as honey bees build their own nest and I live in the colony. This type of house is meant for solitary bees like a Mason Bees who lives independently of other bees and does not share their work. I'm a beekeepers, so not to come down hard on you just want to set the record straight as many times bees get a bad rap

author
dpark76 made it! (author)2013-08-06

solitary bees? Had no idea there was such a thing, but if that's the case. I just youtubed "mason bees" and found some cool videos. Apparently mason bees are way more productive than honey bees!!! Neat!!!

author
T_om made it! (author)2013-08-06

Looks like some of your occupants are not bees.

Just a FYI, Eastern Carpenter bees and Mason bees both are hole nesters. But 1/4" holes are too small. You need between 3/8" to 1/2" holes to really attract them.

author
cart562 made it! (author)cart5622013-08-06

You know, I think I actually did use a 3/8 bit, and forgot to change it from 1/4, sorry

author
Bryan Smith made it! (author)2013-08-06

I have read that the optimum size bit should be 5/16", but I have not verified it in experimentation.

author
cnobel made it! (author)2013-08-06

Warning: make sure you úse wood that is NOT chemically treated in any way. A lot of wood used for building fences is chemically treated or painted or stained to increase its durability. But all that chemical stuff is lethal for the bugs we're all so eager to help out.

Also, in my experience, different kinds of bugs (and there are many variations of solitary bees, wasps, etc) appreciate different kinds of wood.

author
cart562 made it! (author)cart5622013-08-06

Aye, I did forget to mention to get untreated wood, thanks.

author
cyberpigue made it! (author)2013-08-06

Great project for several reasons. One, of course it will attract any bee that would normally bore a hole for shelter. Two, it helps keep them from boring where you don't want them to. Three, they DO pollinate in spite of the fact that they are not "honey" bees and we need all bees pollinating.

Good post!

author
cnobel made it! (author)2013-08-06

It helps to position your finished bee house with the holes facing the sun (south-west to south-east if you're on the northern hemisphere). Makes it more attractive for them. A bit of shelter from strong winds is also a good idea.

author
cnobel made it! (author)2013-08-06

It does help to drill holes of varying diameter and depth to accomodate specific wishes of all the different kinds of solitary wasps, bees and other flying things.

It's a great idea to use irregular spacing: most insects are attracted to diversity in plants and flowers, shapes and colours. Those that are not, we usually consider pests. I learned this during a course on permaculture gardening. Plus, it looks nicer :-)

The type of wood also determines whether the inside of the hole has a 'clean' finish: if the inside walls of the hole are too rough, insects won't inhabite it (they can get snagged on very small irregularities or splinters).

author
judybgris made it! (author)2013-08-04

Wasps may build their own small hive under the rave buy won't build inside. These houses are for carpenter bees. They do a better job at pollinating than honey bees and will work on cloudy cool days. This project will keep them from boring into fence posts or other wood.

author
PaganRaven made it! (author)2013-08-04

I love this! And unlike the others, I get which Bee species you are aiming to help here. =)
Truth be known, we need to do what we can to help ALL bees to recover from the chemicals and pollutants. Without bees, we won't survive long at all.
Very good 'ible - straight to the point and simple.

author
digital_gods made it! (author)2013-08-04

It's a great project for everywhere but Texas. In Texas, wasps would take up residence in it. If bees were to take up residence, it would probably be Africanized killer bees.

author
Kiteman made it! (author)Kiteman2013-08-04

Bee homes like this attract solitary species of bee, mainly the many species of "bumble" bee. Hive bees like honey bees look for larger spaces to build in, like hollow trees or overhanging eaves.

author
cart562 made it! (author)cart5622013-08-04

Yes, I believe the main purpose of these homes is for the non-hive building, nomadic bess, like the various types of Mason Bees.

author
t1espo made it! (author)2013-08-04

Great idea and you did a very good job on the presentation. However I must agree with the other comments that Honeybees won't build a hive in there. Hornets, Wasp and Wood Bees will call it home.

author
Rustedmoon made it! (author)2013-08-04

Love it, anything to Help the bees

author
joey24dirt made it! (author)2013-08-04

Such a simple idea I love it. A great project to do with children which could also teach them the importance of bees. Good job!

About This Instructable

80,936views

350favorites

License:

Bio: I enjoy nature, science, classic rock, food, and having a good time. I don't have much of an imagination, but I am resourceful. I ... More »
More by cart562:Remotely Operated Vehicles!My new wooden garbage boxWire Wrapped Pendants, the Easy Way
Add instructable to: