Make a Bee House for Orchard Mason Bees, a non-stinging native bee that helps pollinate fruit crops and other early blooming plants. This fascinating, docile native bee helps your garden grow delicious fruit and a bee house will give them a place to raise their young. Join the worldwide effort to save the bees by making a Mason Bee house from common household items. Mason bee houses can be hung outside in early spring.
Orchard Mason Bees are solidary bees that pollinate our fruit trees and early blooming plants. They are native bees and use abandoned insect holes, cardboard tubes or bamboo to lay their eggs. The adult bees carry pollen to the tunnel or tube and create a big pile onto which they lay one egg. They are called Mason Bees because they use mud to close off that section of the tunnel. They continue to create pollen piles, lay eggs and close up the chambers until the tunnel is full then they move on to the next tunnel. Adult Mason Bees live from mid-March through mid-June.
During late spring and early summer, the Mason Bee eggs hatch in the tunnels and the larvae eat the pollen. They stay in the chamber as they grow. Finally, they pupate creating a cocoon in the fall. It is safe to remove the cocoons from bee tubes after they have formed their pupal shell. The smaller cocoons are male bees and the bigger are female. While in the cocoon they change into adult bees that will chew their way out of the surprisingly tough cocoon in early spring. Weather determines when they will emerge. Have Fun!
Mason Bee House A Mason Bee House is a container filled with cardboard, paper or bamboo tubes placed so that the round opening is facing out and the mason bees can enter the tunnels. Hang Mason Bee House in a protected area under the eaves of a house or shed on the warmest side of the building. Make sure it is out of the rain. In late September through early November, remove filled bee tubes and cut them open to free the cocoons. Remove and clean off the cocoons using a small brush or soft cloth. You can wash the cocoons to remove stubborn mud and other debris. Place cocoons in plastic container with a couple air holes in the refrigerator until the next spring. Make sure the cocoons don’t dry out or get moldy.
Put clean bee tubes in your Mason Bee House and hang it up in February through mid March. You may want to hang more than one Mason Bee House if you have many early blooming plants in your yard.
Resources Mason Bee supplies and cocoons Crown Bees www.crownbees.com (425) 949-7954 Woodinville, WA
Books “Turn This Book into a Bee Hive” by Lynn Brunelle, illustrated by Anna-Maria Jung “Mason Bee Revolution: How the Hardest Working Bee Can Save the World - One Backyard at a Time” by Dave Hunter and Jill Lightner “Pollination with Mason Bees: A Gardener’s Guide to Managing Mason Bees for Fruit Tree Pollination” by Dr. Margaret Dogterom
Mason Bee nesting in hollow stalk
DIY Mason Bee house made from recycled bottle and scrap paper
DIY Mason Bee House Supplies
1 empty water bottle – 16 oz size
26-28 pieces of paper cut to 5 ½” X 8” (a half sheet of 8 ½ X 11 paper)
1 piece of dark colored paper cut to 5 ½” X 8” (optional)
1 disc of paper cut the size of the bottom of the water bottle
1 new pencil (not sharpened)
Scotch or masking tape
Premoistened, air dry clay (or dry clay and water)
Yarn, string, or thin wire for mounting bee house outside
Bug house using bamboo of various sizes to attract diverse insects