Mason bees are easy bees to raise! But why would you want to? Because these days, bees need all the help they can get. Amiright? Also, mason bees are excellent pollinators, and they don’t sting. They come out early when the temperature reaches about 50 degrees. They are excellent pollinators to increase your fruit yield because fruit trees often have the first flowers of the spring.
Mason bees are solitary which means they don’t have a hive with different jobs like the honeybees. Mason bees just mate and pollinate and fill up those bee tubes with cocoons for next year!
A mason bee house can be as simple as taking a cardboard shipping tube, cutting it to 7″, sticking your bee tubes inside and hanging it up outside. (Facing East is ideal) You’ll want to use bee tubes that are 6″ long and 5/16″ in diameter. Here’s a good source for them.
If you want to get into a bit of woodworking, here’s how I made my bee houses.
So, for the structural bits of wood, you’ll need pieces that are about 7″ wide. I used some 7″ wide planks that I cut down to about 20″ in length. Since the bee tubes are 6″ long, a 7″ plank will give a bit of a roof overhang.
I live in Portland, Oregon and we have this great place called The Rebuilding Center. This is where I picked out some interesting pieces of old wood. But a lot of us probably have some leftover bits of wood from projects that might be perfect. You can even use parts of a pallet.
I used a staple gun with an air compressor and wood glue to attach these pieces at the top. Other parts of the pallet can be used to make the shelves.
I found that old hand railings are the best pieces for both the shelf and also for the inside of the house. Pick shapes that look interesting when cut. You’ll be looking at the end part if you use them inside. You’ll need some other parts of your plank to make a solid shelf or shelves behind the decorative piece you use for the face. Cut the planks down to allow space for the railing pieces across the front. I used a belt sander to sand the edges of the plank and railing so that they would wedge up into the triangular shape. Again, I used a staple gun and wood glue to attach the shelves.
Next, you’ll want to drill holes into your 6″ pieces of wood. Use a 1/2″ drill bit. (A drill press is ideal.) A 1/2″ drill bit will allow your 5/16″ bee tubes to slide in easily. Or you can use bamboo with a hole that is already 1/2″. You’ll still need to put a bee tube inside the bamboo. If the bamboo hole is oversize, you can use them ornamentally. Mason bees won’t use a hole that is larger than 5/16″.
I also used some branches from a tree I cut down.
After the bee house was complete, I brushed on two coats boiled linseed oil over the sides and front. This protects the wood and adds a nice stained look.
I ended up buying ten mason bees from a local nursery and set the small cardboard box inside. Mason bees use clay/wet dirt to close up the ends of the tubes after laying their cocoons. At the end of May, all the tubes had been filled!
For mason bee care and supplies, check out: Crown Bees
Some other houses I made. After people saw the first one, I had to make a few more. They’re great gifts!
For more bee house pictures, check out my board on Pinterest.