How to Build a Mason Orchard Bee Nest, House
I discovered the benefits of Mason Orchard Bees years ago when I stumbled upon Brian Griffin of Knox Cellars at the Washington State Flower and Garden Show. He was selling bee starter kits and generously sharing his keen knowledge of this unsung native pollinator. In the cool, wet springs (two adjectives also suited for fall and winter) of the Maritime Northwest, Mason Orchard bees are little pollinating powerhouses at a time when honey and bumble bees are holed up in their hives. As grateful as I am to these solitary, gentle critters, there have been some years when I’ve had to take matters into my own hands and pollinate by hand. (And yes, I do look relatively ridiculous, paint brush in hand.)
Over the years, I’ve created my own Mason Orchard Bee boxes out of found materials, everything from paper straws in milk cartons to blocks of fir drilled with 5/16 inch holes to accommodate the bee larva. My latest bee house design is basically free to make and calls on tin cans and hollow sticks to do the job.
- Tall tin can
- Bamboo (cut into small tubes)
- One screw
Assembly is a cinch. I usually wash out an empty can Bush’s Baked Beans (a staple here and unfortunate favorite of Boz and Gracie). I then drill a small hole in the bottom of the can and tighten one screw through it so the can is perpendicular to an exterior wall. It’s best placed under a sheltered eave. Mine are attached to my barn and chicken coop.
When the can is secure, I fill the can with bamboo cut into even tubes not to exceed the end of the can. You want them to stay dry as possible. Shoot for bamboo with hollow cores around 5/16 inch diameter. Tah dah, you’re done. The bees pollinate for a short but important time in early spring and then lay eggs in the tube that will hatch next spring as whole new generation of welcomed pollinators.
Update: This photo was taken a year later, after native mason orchard bees moved in. Note the capped mud ends on the bamboo tubes. The ‘nests’ are placed under the eaves of my chicken coop for a little weather protection.
Mason and Native Bee related links:
- Washington State University Mason Bee Fact Sheet and links
- NC State: How to raise and manage Mason Orchard Bees
- Grit Magazine: Native Bees in America
- ATTRA: Alternate Pollinators Native Bees
- Western Cascade Fruit Club: dado version bee box
What I was blogging about a year ago: How to Plant a Bareroot Tree