How to Help The Bees: Build a Mason Bee House

Wondering how you can lend a hand in bee conservation? Learn how here…

Buzzing between bursts of spring flowers, you might spy one… a flash of quickly moving wings, chubby body suspended with legs laden in pollen. Busily doing what they’ve done for millennia, these industrious little creatures of black and yellow might seem abundant, but in reality their numbers are mysteriously dwindling. With the turn of winter to spring, the bees are back, albeit in much smaller numbers. Responsible for bringing us 1 out of every 3 spoonfuls of food we so happily consume, honeybees and their ilk are too quickly becoming a rare species as their colonies collapse and their numbers dwindle.

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Hive collapse and the mass disappearance of bees has been attributed to everything from pesticides to climate change to GMO crops, but while the reasons for their falling numbers may still be a mystery, the dire consequences of the situation are all too clear. While grains like wheat and corn do not require the aid of bees to grow and produce food, almost all of our non-grain fruits and vegetables require the work of bees to pollinate them. A table without the harvest created by bees would be a very drab one indeed, minus the vibrant colors and deep nutrition of fruits and vegetables, lacking the burst of blooms you might otherwise display as your centerpiece. The good news is, regardless of whether the place you call home is the city or country, there are ways in which you can help the bees. Besides switching to chemical-free, all-natural fertilizers for outdoor plants; not pulling up your “weeds” (dandelion and clover are a bee’s best friend); and choosing local, sustainable, and organic foods, planting bee-friendly flowers and flowering herbs is one of the easiest ways to roll out the welcome mat for bees, encouraging them to populate and pollinate your neighborhood. A few bee favorites you might want to consider adding to your garden or window boxes:

Herbs:

sage-seedpacket

lavender-seedpacket

Annuals:

sunflower-seedpacket

poppy-seedpacket

Perennials:

snowdrop-seedpacket

hollyhocks-seedpacket

Besides planting herbs and flowers, another great way to encourage bee populations in your area is to get involved with a local beekeeping group or apiary. However, if beekeeping isn’t for you, there’s one more way to help the solitary bees that frequent your neighborhood. Called ‘Mason Bees’, you may have encountered these free-roaming bees and their nests before (there are over 300 species of solitary bee across the Northern hemisphere). Known for creating their homes inside hollow reeds or holes created by other wood-boring bugs, mason bees build their shelters using mud instead of cohabitating with other bees in a hive. After emerging from their nests — males emerge first — the female begins gathering pollen inside her tubular home in anticipation of laying eggs. Once enough pollen has been stored, the female bee backs into the tube and lays an egg. She then builds a mud partition and lays another egg — female eggs in the back, male eggs in the front — continuing the process until the tube is filled and it’s time to go in search of a new home for herself (independent woman that she is). While they don’t produce honey like other kinds of bees, mason bees are an integral part of keeping the eco-system running smoothly and building them a welcoming place to lay their eggs is an easy way to lend a hand. Learn how to make a mason bee home (a bee bnb!) below:

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Mason Bee A-Frame House

Materials:

Wood (three 5″x 5″ x 1/4″ inch pieces)

Hollow reeds or tubes (I used bamboo, available at most garden supply stores)

Water-proof glue or small nails

Eye-hook

Rope

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Cut your wood into three pieces of equal length. Trim the reeds or bamboo to the same width as the wood.

Assemble the wood into a triangle or A-frame structure, using the glue or small nails to secure in place.

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Place the reeds inside the A-frame to fill the space. You can also create tubes from cardboard to intersperse with the reeds for different-sized vessels.

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Add the eye-hook to the center of the top of the structure and loop the rope through. Hang near your garden or flowering trees to welcome pollinating mason bees throughout the summer.

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Comments

  1. I have quite a few plants that attract bees and this year I’m adding milkweed. Thank you for the instructions on making a bee house. I would like to make one but wasn’t sure how. I will have to hide it in the trees so the condo association does not find it. lol
    The left over seeds i’m going to take to the field across the street. I will scatter them and hope for the best.
    There used to be a lot of milkweed there but not so much anymore. To much development.

  2. Thanks for sharing! However, the reason bees are dying is NOT a mystery. Some plants (like the ones you buy at WalMart or Home Depot), as well as crops are treated with an incredibly harmful type of pesticide called neonicotinoids, developed by Monsanto. This pesticide is essential to many GMO crops. That, and the fact that industrial beekeepers routinely take too much honey from hives and replace it with high fructose corn syrup. While it is so important that we do small things to help bees and raise our own consciousnesses about their impending extinction, we need to educate ourselves, get real about the facts, and take a stand. Here are some other things you can do to help the bees:
    – Eat local (organic) food
    – Grow your own food
    – Eat local honey (it’s better for you anyway)
    – Do NOT buy plants treated with Neonicotinoids
    – Vote Non-GMO and speak out!

  3. Amanda – Monsanto is a horrible company, there’s no doubt about it – and the world definitely does not need any more pesticides- but most GMO crops are actually better for the environment! Many are designed to be resistant to bugs and weeds without the use of herbicides! And no, they aren’t cancer causing or bad for your health. GMO crops must be nutritionally equal to all their non-genetically modified food counterparts and are tested extensively before being released on the market. Take a look at golden rice, it’s amazing what potential GMO plants have for bettering quality of life all over the world! I’m not saying you should go and support major corrupt corporations or anything, but we should all be pro-GMO if we care about the environment and animal welfare.

  4. I would love to do this and help our bees out. I had a lot of wasps this summer, will they try to inhabit the “bee house”?

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