It's nearing the end of March, that means our little garden pollinators the mason bees are going to come out of their little not so cute cocoons to emerge into a cozy new home that you can make them in a handful of easy steps.
First, if you've got a wood shop and tools, then you're golden, I don't so I drove to my parent's house to use theirs, plus, they have a built in baby sitter for my 1 year old, so that's a bonus.
ETA after trial and error I found that lining the holes is essential and keeps the bees happy and, well alive!
Step 1: Things to Swipe
Things you'll need:
Babysitter (if applicable)
Piece of dry, untreated wood, (I used a log intended for a fireplace)
Chop saw or chainsaw to cut wood
two pieces of flat wood for the roof
drill press or hand drill
Step 2: Cut the Wood.
First thing you need to do is cut the log into workable pieces. The chop saw at the shop was loaned out for the day so I suckered my step father into cutting the log into three sections for me. (I've seen texas chainsaw massacre too many times to be comfortable with them, plus, I need my arms, I value my arms)
Step 3: Drill, Drill, Drill Some More.
Using a 5/16ths bit, drill a bunch of holes, try to keep them about an inch apart.
Extra points if you go in there with a dremel tool afterwards and smooth out all their little holey homes. bees dig that kind of attention to detail.
Step 4: Keep the Rain Out
nobody likes to get soaked in the rain, and Mason bees are no exception, make them a nice roof with a good overhang so that they can chill out, sit on the bee porch, go to their neighbors all without the fear of getting their wings wet. I was tempted to waterproof it but thought I'd avoid it this time around incase Thompson's water seal gives the bees teeny bee headaches. Try at your own risk, these bees don't sting so really, they'll likely leave without a month's notice, I don't want to annoy my tenants.
I used some long screws with a Robinson SOLELY so I can give kudos to CanadianP.L. Robertson for making the bit, high fives fellow Canuck!! Thanks for the bit!
The roof looks mucky because the air compressor was pooched (doh!) but thankfully bees aren't one for being picky, so it will go un-noticed by our guests.
So the rigid drills are great, but the battery lives SUCK, thankfully they are warrantied for life, so make sure you keep your receipts and warranty cards, you'll need them, Mine had very little juice left so I had to hand crank the screws for the last house in.
Step 5: Step Back and Appreciate How Cute Your Little Bee Homes Are
Yep, this is it, so easy, the hardest part was trying to locate screws that were long enough, and trying to figure out what was causing the air nailer to putz out.
So once they're all sanded out and have critters in them, hang them in full sun, facing south east or south, at least a meter off of the ground, Also make sure there is nothing obscuring the entrances to the tunnels such as plants or unicorns.
I made three, two for me, (we're on 15 acres, we can use a LOT of bees) and I made one extra for a friend of mine in the hopes to trigger some interest in bee-ing. She's stoked and is buying her bees tomorrow from the nursery nearby. It's good fun, I'm thinking about making a bee-cam, but we'll see how well they like THIS home before I go all 'big bee brother' on them.
Step 6: Show Your Appreciation
Don't forget, if you used someone else's tools and scraps, be sure to thank them, and gross them out all at the same time, I left a note for my step father, so it's gross, but not THAT gross, right? RIGHT?!