Introduction: The BeeFriend House
This beeFriend house will help turn your garden into a sanctuary for native bees - especially mason bees, which are 'cavity-nesters' who like to make their nests in holes. This bee house can be made using repurposed items from home, and it does not require any special tools or equipment - a great activity for kids and adults alike.
Why do we need to help native bees? Honeybees are helpful, but native bees actually pollinate more plants than honeybees. If native bees went extinct, roughly 250 foods in your local supermarket would be gone. Also, native bees are not cared for by humans the way honeybees are, so they are dying out at even more rapid rates.
Native bees are valuable pollinators and important contributors to our ecosystem. Now they need our help. As the saying goes, “The best time to plant a tree was yesterday. The second best time is now.”
Step 1: What You'll Need
- a 7-10" tube, such as a mailing tube (with lid tightly secured on one end), quart-sized milk carton, coffee tin, or tennis ball canister.
- nesting tubes: about 1/4" diameter, 6" long. You can use items such as paper straws*, hollow plant stems, cut bamboo stems, or cardboard rolled into tubes**
- kraft paper or pieces of brown paper bag (to fill the bottom of the larger tube)
- sticks (to fill in spaces between nesting tubes)
- clear packing tape
* for example,
** Toilet paper rolls can be torn apart and rerolled diagonally into 1/4" diameter tubes, then trimmed to the right length.
Step 2: The Outside Structure of the Bee House
Use a mailing tube, quart-sized milk carton, coffee tin, or tennis ball canister. If you're using a mailing tube, make sure to tightly secure a cap on one end.
Completely cover your box with clear packing tape to help waterproof it. Or, you can print out your own sticker like the one shown in the picture by clicking here. Note: When printing this label, you will need to use a color laser printer to avoid the ink running.
Step 3: The Inside of the Bee House
Stuff some kraft paper in and compact it as much as you can.
Close up one end of each straw by folding it down about 3 mm. Mix the straws and sticks together, and then put them in the tube. If the tube still has room in it, fill it with more straws or sticks, then secure all the contents by stuffing any remaining empty space with kraft paper. The straws should be pushed all the way back against the kraft paper, leaving an overhang in the front for rain protection.
Step 4: Mounting Your Bee House
Secure your bee house at least a meter from the ground in a bee-friendly flower garden. Its opening should face south or southeast to catch the warmth of the sun, and be slightly tilted downward to not catch rainwater.
Step 5: What Is a Bee-friendly Garden?
Bees need flowering plants during as much of the year as possible. Commercially available wildflower seed mixes work well and often include a combination of annuals (which bloom and die but can reseed in the same area) and perennials (which return each year, usually for 3-5 years).
Try to have flowers blooming when native bees begin to be active. This is generally in the spring, but depending on where you are, this can be any time from February through May. This means that the best time to put the seeds in the ground can be any time from mid-October through March.
Try to plant the seeds in a patch of at least one square meter, so that the bees don’t have to travel far within your garden to find the specific type of flower that they like.
Other things that bees like in a garden:
- Bees need water to drink, and some also need it to make mud for nesting. If you don’t have a bird bath, you can make a puddle dish by filling a shallow dish with stones, some native soil and water. Butterflies will use this, too.
- Be pesticide-free, if you can. Pesticides are not good for bees.
- This bee house helps cavity-nesting bees. But you can also help ground-nesting native bees by not mulching, so that ground-nesting native bees have a place to build their homes.