I know a few of you are thinking “why would you want to build a bee condo!?!?” Well, because if you garden, plants need to be pollinated in order to reproduce. Many plants depend on bees or other insects to help with pollination.When a bee collects nectar and pollen from the flower of a plant, some pollen from the stamens (the male reproductive organ of the flower) sticks to the hairs of the bee’s body. When the bee visits the next flower, some of this pollen is rubbed off onto the tip of the pistil (the female reproductive organ of the flower.) When this happens, fertilization is possible, and yummy goodness grows in your garden!
Since where we live there is an ordnance that we can’t keep honey bees (stupidest thing ever in my opinion) we decided to try and attract other pollinators such as humming birds, butterflies, and MASON bees. We did our research as to what Mason bees need as far as habitat and set to work to entice these friendly bees to our backyard. Believe it or not, it was easier then you might think and you can do it too!
Never heard of a Mason bee before? Then let me tell you a little bit about these “solitary” bees. They lay their own eggs rather than relying on a queen to lay all the eggs like honey bees. And while they don’t make honey, they do gather pollen and help to pollinate the flowers and vegetables in your garden. This native North American bee is also a better pollinator then the honey bee because just a couple mason bees can pollinate a whole fruit tree! Just think what they could do for you backyard garden!! These are also “friendly” bees as the male bee can not sting and the female rarely stings.
You can find many different plans for building a Mason bee condo on the internet. The materials used have their pros and cons. Since Mason bees don’t burrow into wood like Carpenter bees, but instead use existing hole, like an insect or woodpecker hole, in which to build a nest, we decided to use UNTREATED lumber for our condo. We had a 2 x 6 in our scrap pile that hubby cut down into sections.
After joining the sections together with U shaped nails to create a block, he drilled holes into the sections. We used a 5/16th of an inch bit as that is the preferred size Mason bees seem to like.
When you drill into your block you want to drill at least 3 inches deep, but deeper is better without going all the way through the wood. Since our block was 6 inches, we drilled 5 1/2 inches down to create a nice deep hole for the Mason bees to lay their eggs in.
Once your condo is finished, hang it on the south side of a building, fence post, or tree, about 6 feet from the ground. Make sure it is securely attached. Mason bees are named mason (as in bricklaying) because they use mud to encapsulate their eggs in the holes of their nest, so try to place your condo near a source of mud. We placed ours on a tree near our duck pool as it is cleaned every other day and the ground is damp and muddy in spots.
Low and behold, after just a few days, look what we had move into our Mason bee condo!!! A female Mason bee!!! It was so interesting to watch her come and go, laying eggs.
When a female finishes laying all her eggs, she plugs up the end of her hole. It was so neat to see the mud wall. Sadly, once all her eggs are laid, the female Mason bee dies as she has finished her life cycle. Hubby found her at the end of her hole and placed her on a penny to show the Mason bee’s size.
|Look at all the pollen!|
Once you have mason bees laying in your condo, do not move the house until at least November. Once winter rolls around, you can move your condo into a garage to overwinter for more protection. In the spring, place your condo back out and enjoy watching the little Mason bees emerge. The male eggs are laid at the end of the tunnel and will emerge first, with the next generation of females emerging after.