02 March 2011
It's not too late in the season to create a nest box for our native bees! These little boxes are easy to make, and the various hole sizes attract mason bees and any number of other various shiny, non-stinging bees.
A native bee box is a great addition to a garden, and helps support these really important pollinator populations. I call them Pollinator Penthouses.
Here are some basic building instructions:
Find some scrap wood. The big chunk of wood ought to be about 5-6 inches deep, so I used some old 4x6s that were laying around. Make sure your wood is preservative free.
Drill a bunch o' holes of all sorts of sizes. Holes should be between 3/32” and 3/8” in diameter, and drilled at approximate 3/4” centers. The holes should be smooth inside, and closed at one end. The height of the nest is not critical, but the depth of the holes is. Holes less than 1/4” diameter should be 3-4” deep. For holes 1/4” or larger, go with a 5-6” depth.
Hang the nests so they are sheltered from bad weather, and with entrance holes facing towards east or southeast, so they get the morning sun. The nests can be hung any height from the ground, but I've always put them about chest high.
There are 4,000 species of native bees in North America, and they are a hugely important pollinator group.
This is an easy thing to make and the bees are lots of fun to watch. They will scurry into the holes, lay eggs and then seal off the chambers with a muddy-pulp mixture. Sometimes, the original bee will be parasitized by other bees that swoop in and lay their eggs in with resident egg. These are called cuckoo bees, I believe. The only maintenance is to go through in the winter and clean out in debris left in the holes from previous tenants.
That's a small amount of landlording for a great cause.