Saturday, May 2, 2015

Making A Mason Bee Motel

Okay, this isn't my usual jewelry-related project, but I'm super-excited about this and wanted to share it with you. I am one of those people who puts bugs outside, instead of squishing them. Especially bees. In the spring and summer, when we have a few doors and windows open, I keep a tiny clear jar and a piece of stiff cardboard handy. If a bee wanders inside and can't find its way back out, I catch it in the jar and put it back outside. Lately I've been noticing some bees I haven't seen before. They are smaller than honey bees, and were very gentle when I was trying to save them, not aggressive at all. I did a little research and discovered they are a native species of mason bee. They are fabulous pollinators, and one mason bee can pollinate as many trees as 100 honey bees. They live in holes in wood, but are incapable of making their own holes. One website suggested welcoming them by building bee boxes. I got really excited about the idea. This morning my husband and I made 5 of them.

They were really easy to make. Here's how we did it: We had some leftover post ends from a barn-related project. They were 8 1/2 inches long, and measured 3 1/2 inches square. If you're buying them, they call them  4-by-4's, because that's the size they are when the wood is still wet. It shrinks as it is kiln-dried. We also had some old cedar shingles that we had used to repair the old roof, before we replaced it with a metal one. We sawed the shingles in half and drilled a small hole in the center of each one. For the holes in the wood, where the bees will live, we used a 5/16 inch drill bit. We marked the holes so that they would be at least an inch apart, and drilled them with the drill press. From what I could find out, it didn't really matter if the holes went all the way through or not because the bees would be using mud to block the entrances. No problem there... we live in the Pacific Northwest and mud is plentiful! We attached the roof shingle to the motel with an eye screw and hung each one from a tree. Mason bees apparently like east-facing holes, because they are cold-blooded and need the sun to warm them up in the morning. They also need places that are somewhat sheltered to the wind. We hung a few of them in our apple and pear trees, one in a rhododendron bush, and bolted one to the fence by the raspberry plants. Now we wait. 

With the recent decline in honey bees nation-wide, it seems like giving these little native pollinators a place to live is a really good idea!

Until next time!

Leaving you with this quote: "When the flower blossoms, the bee will come." Hopefully when the bee house is put in the tree, the same thing will happen!

1 comment:

  1. What a great idea...I have been wanting to do this for a long time. What time of year do they go inside these? Is it every day?