Happy Home for Our Friends the Mason Bees!





Introduction: Happy Home for Our Friends the Mason Bees!

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
nail gun
water sealer
Dremel tool
bee cocoons

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?!



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    20 Discussions

    This is a great idea. I can build some this weekend to be ready for the bee arrival in spring. It seems that you drill the holes such that the shaft is parallel to the ground. Perhaps angling the shaft upwards (5 degrees ??) from the entrance to the back wall would help keep out rainwater. Is this advisable?

    2 replies

    Naturally they don't seem to do that angle, I've had many bees nest around the property, in screw holes, in the rubber roofing tiles of our kids' playhouse, and they're all very parallel to the ground. To avoid rain I'd just build a roof! This whole mason bee obsession was a gateway, now I keep honeybees and omfg I'm bee obsessed

    Hello. New here and doing some Mason Bee research. First of all (KnexFreek) afraid of Mason Bees, Boo! afraid of your shadow too? LMAO!
    Danica's design using lenths of raw logs is not such a bad one actually and could be designed into a pretty funky Bee house. (I've already got some ideas). One thing I've read about this type of design is how difficult cleaning and keeping your little ones safe over the winter is. As Vlatro says, yes cutting a paper bag and lining the holes is a good idea and much cheaper than buying paper tubes. But I read that using Bakers parchment paper is even better for keeping everything dry and removing your Bee cocoons to save for the next year. This particular blogspot has some excellent information on cleaning and preserving cocoons. http://frogpondphotography.blogspot.com/2007/10/mason-bees.html
    I have my own ideas for Mason Bee houses and plan to start production this winter and will post the process. Cheers.

    This is a great design! I just bought a 5/16ths drill bit and have lots of wood rounds coming my way. One question about this Mason bee hut -- where do you install it? Is it hung from or placed on a tree, or set on a rock on the ground, or mounted on a pole? Thanks

    1 reply

    Do the bees prefer a certain type of wood (for the main log with the holes in it) over others?  I want to build a few of these for a property in upstate NY where we are planting some apple trees.

    Thank you


    2 replies

    I would think a hardwood would be best.  If you want some weather resistance, try something like white oak (bur oak, etc - very weather resistant) or maybe walnut, cherry or apple.  Even better would be hedge (aka osage orange) or locust..  Farmers use locust for fenceposts, and it lasts roughly forever.

    Not sure!! I think any dry wood should do the trick, these were cedar and they produced a lot more slivers than I would have liked, so I bet maple would be a lot nicer to work with!

    If you're bent on waterproofing, you might be able to do so with paraffin or beeswax.  Melt some and place the cut ends of the log in the liquid.  Should wick it right up.

    I see you've gone for plywood for the roof. Given a bit of time in the outdoors pretty much anywhere that will start to delaminate.
    I've got some scrap ply that's been outside for a while and it looks terrible.
    Also, I know honeybees tend to avoid hives made from ply (something to do with the adhesives I believe) - whether or not this would mean masons would stay away I don't know but it might.

    I'd suggest using solid wood of some kind.

    I'll be making some of these to go on my allotment reasonably soon. Not quite 15 acres (it's just over 1100 square feet of land rented from the city to grow food - that's 0.025 acres) but I'm putting up some habitat/housing for bugs anyway.


    - How thick is the slice of the log?
    - Did you drill the holes all the way though?  If not, how deep do you recommend?
    - Any recommendations of where to get the bee cocoons?

    Great idea.  I have been looking at these ones made of bamboo and thought they seemed easy enough to make something suitable for less.

    Thank you for the video. I watched the entire series and was fascinated. I've been considering getting my own hive and this may have helped my decision. thank you again.

     Excellent build. I was considering a similar idea with a short length of gutter downpipe containing tubes of rolled-up paper, but yours looks so much nicer than mine would (in my head).

    Great stuff! :)

     Good idea.  Let me know how they liked it.

     Building the house is on the first step.  Getting bees to use it is vital.
    In most parts of the norther hemisphere, mason bees of one variety or another are common, so there should be little need to buy the bees.  However, there are certain species available for purchase online, through garden catalog, or a garden supply stores.  You should select a type of bee suitable to the plants you want them to pollinate.  The bees that work well for apple orchards often emerge too late to pollinate cherries, and go dormant before the can pollinate winter flowers.  So wild bees from your area will typically be hardy and active earlier and last longer, but specific species may be better suited for your needs, so do some research with regard to which species are available in your area.  

    Attracting bees to the nest requires a few other things.  Make sure they have an ample supply of mud (for mason bees) and tender, non-oily leaves (leaf-cuter bees).  They will also need food at times when your fruit trees are not flowering, so a variety of flowers blooming all season long (March-November) will make sure they don't wander off or starve.  Honeysuckle and English lavender are a favorite for nearly all bees, hardy in most regions of the US, and keep their flowers for a long time.  Putting these plants just beyond the nest will ensure they move in quickly.

    Never use pressure-treated wood when constructing a bee house, and avoid using copper-sulfate on trees, as it will kill the bee's larva.

    Cleaning the nests is also very important.  There are a variety of mites and parasitic nematodes that prey on bee larva.  After the female bees emerge (1-2 weeks after the first males come out), remove any debris from the holes and flush out with a light bleach solution.  Hole liners make this easy.  Just cut up a paper bag, and roll it in to tube that are just a bit longer than the hole, and insert them.  At the end of the season, you can simply discard the empty liners and replace them, effectively discarding any parasites at the same time.

    Ideally, you want around 500 bees per acre for fruit orchards.  1 hole 5-6" deep will house about 5 bees, usually 3-4 males, and 1-2 females.  One female bee will lay about 20 eggs per season, filling about 4 holes.  So 100 - 200 holes per acre will be ideal, but you can always use more, the excess will wander off and colonize neighboring areas.  

    Tip: If you have blonde or red hair, these bees will hover around your head for a while, you look like a big flower to them.  Fragrant hair spray or conditioner will also attract them.  They won't hurt you, but wear a hat to keep them from buzzing around your head.  You learn to ignore it after a while, but it's unnerving to some people when a bee lands in you ear. 

    Just an FYI, mason bees almost never sting. These nests won't attract honey bees or the Africanized hybrids. Don't be scared of something 1/10millionth of your size, I'm pretty sure you'll win in a fight with them.  

     I HATE BEES. BEES SHOULD GO TO HE- L. Why would you do anything for a bee? Except for spray them with poison.

    2 replies

    I'll put it in video form seeing as you clearly prefer not read : This is about the honey bee,  but we have the same issue with Mason bees, and they are heavy pollinators, so we need them BAD!