Mason bees are many times more effective at pollinating than honey bees. Here I’ll show you how to make a mason bee hotel so that you can attract these fascinating insects. Mason bees live alone. They lay their eggs in hollow stems and openings and seal the end with mud. We’ll use hollow stems to mimic the natural home of the mason bee.
How to Make a Mason Bee Hotel
Here are a few tips:
- The home should be stationary so that the bees can find their own tube. It’s better to attach it to a branch or another object than leave it hanging freely.
- Don’t build it too large as this can cause a breeding ground for insect diseases.
- The tubes should be at least 6 inches long and be set a little bit back from the opening of the can to provide shelter from rain.
First, collect plants with hollow stems ranging from 1/8 inch to 1/2 inch in width. This step is a fun way to get out and explore nature.
What natural plants can you find with hollow stems? This website recommends using dried alliums, bamboo, squash, joe-pye weed, dandelion, teasel, goldenrod, hollyhocks and/or buddleia since their stems are hollow inside. I found that the species of goldenrod that we have in our area isn’t hollow, but we found bitter dock stems that were, so keep looking if at first you can’t find a source.
Then cut the stems to a uniform length (six inches is a good length). At first we tried using a pruner, but we found that our pruner squashed the stems, so we grabbed my husband’s jigsaw to finish the job. Your pruner may do a better job than ours.
Clean the inside of the stems using a piece of wire. You want to be able to see light through each stem.
Before assembling your mason bee hotel, you may wish to dye the stems. Dying the stems is not necessary, but it was a fun step. The beautiful colored stems had me wondering what else we could make out of them.
Bundle the stems tightly and put them inside your container of choice. We had wanted to use the empty bean can shown in the above photo, but it was too short. We ended up using an empty water bottle.
Finally, hang your bee hotel outside for the bees to find. We attached the finished bee hotel to the side of our deck where it would be facing the sun. I don’t have a picture of this step.
We didn’t notice anything using it until mid-July. Then one day we noticed some mason wasps around the hotel. Mason wasps are beneficial and use tiny hairless caterpillars to feed their young. They were so much fun to observe! In the following video, we caught one carrying a green caterpillar and then backing in to lay an egg. When the egg hatches, the larva will feed on the worm. We also saw the mother wasp filling the outside entrance with mud.
I hope you try making your own bee hotel. This was one of the most satisfactory nature projects we’ve worked on. It gave us such a great opportunity to observe something we’d never have seen otherwise.
This project was part of the March nature calendar. For more nature ideas, check out my monthly nature calendars.