How to Make a Mason Bee House for Your Garden

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Gardeners know that the presence of bees is a great help in the garden. Some gardeners are even turning to urban beekeeping to attract industrious pollinators to the yard (and reap the reward: honey). If you’re not quite ready for full beekeeping, you can still get in on the fun by attracting solitary bees with a mason bee house, which gives mason bees a place to breed. These species are generally native, as they are not cultivated for their honey production and can still be industrious pollinators.

What you need to make a mason bee

The materials for this project depend on the type of bee house you plan to make, but you will need one or more blocks of wood or planks, such as 2-by-4 pieces and 1-by-6 pieces. In addition, you will need a jigsaw, a nail and nail gun or a good old-fashioned hammer, a drill and a tape measure.

Mason bees nest in tube-like areas, so building a home for them can be quite simple. All they need are tunnels drilled through a block of wood and a roof to keep the entrance dry. Some instructions use paper liners for tubes to keep the inside of the nests clean and discourage fungus, but these are optional. Bee hotels that open up so they can be cleaned between seasons are more convenient, but they’re slightly more complicated to build, so don’t bother making them just yet.

How to build the roof and structure of a mason bee house

To start, you will need to create an overhanging roof for your bee house. To make a pointed roof, cut two pieces of a six-by-6 or similar material with a 30 degree angle on one edge. Make sure the roof is wide enough to cover the entrances to your intended home. Then you need to nail the two pieces together along the 30 degree angle to form the top.

Once you have your roof, you can build a square box to hold your honeycombs. The box should be big enough to accommodate your nests, so about 5 inches deep and as tall and wide as your roof will accommodate. You can use 1 x 6 boards (or similar) to build a rectangle 5 1/2 inches deep, about 8 inches at the top and bottom, and as high as you want. Next, cover the back of the box with a 1 by 3 (or similar) and place your roof over the end of the box so the opening faces outward. Nail it. This is the structure that your honeycomb tubes will fit into.

How to make the nesting tubes

To make the simplest nesting tubes, you can drill holes in 2-by-4 blocks with a 7/16-inch drill bit. First, cut your blocks to 5 inches long. Then use an extra long drill bit to drill holes from the end of the block to the end. It is important that the holes go through so that the tubes of the honeycomb can be cleaned with pipe cleaners or water between nesting seasons. If you use this method, you can place your blocks with the holes facing out and your bee hotel is ready to be installed.

To make tubes that are a little more complicated but easier to clean, you will need a router and a ½ inch round nose router bit. Use your router to route ½ inch by ½ inch channels in the boards you use for nesting. These boards can be 2 by s6ix or 5 quarters by 5 inches and need to be cut to fit inside your bee box. Cut your channels about an inch from the front of your bee box to the back. Then slide them into the box on top of each other, and they will form bee tunnels. When it’s time to clean out your bee box, you can slide them out and open the tunnels, saving you the hassle.

How to maintain a mason bee house

Your bee hotel should be ready to install with the type of nest tunnel you have chosen to use. Consult your local guidebooks to find out when the weather is warm enough for bees in your area and place your bee hotel outdoors to attract pollinator friends. Once the weather is cool enough for the bee cocoons and no live bees are in residence, you should move the bee house to a garden shed, unheated garage, or similar protected space, but do not clean it yet. Once it’s time for the bees to hatch, you should put the bee hotel back outside and allow the nesting bees to emerge from their cocoons before cleaning it out. Finally, you should thoroughly clean the bee tunnels and dry them thoroughly to discourage fungus. Leave the cleaned nest tubes in their structure for the new bees to occupy.

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