Content of the material
- Introduction: Mason Bee House
- Best Mason Bee Houses
- Wildlife World Interactive Mason Bee House
- KIBAGA Mason Bee House
- Welliver Outdoors Standard Mason Bee House
- SKOOLIX Hanging Insect House
- Niteangel Wooden Insect House
- Meet a Mason Bee!
- Step 13: Attach Back
- Feeding Mason Bees
- 4. The Bees Waggle Mason Bee House for Solitary Bees
- 2. Welliver Outdoor Standard Mason Bee House
- 1. Armstrong and Blackbury Solitary Mason Pollen Bee House
- Where to Place a Mason Bee House
Introduction: Mason Bee House
By mtairymdMore by the author:
About: I like to design and build random things. More About mtairymd »
Native mason bees can be housed to protect them from pests, diseases and predators. They are excellent early season pollinators for orchards and other early season fruit crops. Mason bees can do more work than non-native honey bees, even on a cloudy rainy day. Also, mason bees are solitary non-aggressive bees, which makes them ideal for folks with pets or children. The initial step for the care of mason bees is to build a nest block or mason bee house.
I’ve combined my original design with the rolled paper liner technique first published by Randy Person. You can read more about his process, and see an alternative nest block design, at:
Randy has also assisted in improving this Instructable. He attributes much of his knowledge to his long association with Dr. Margriet Dogterom, author of Pollination with Mason Bees, and proprietor of the bee-related website Beediverse.com. The original idea for the coiled liners came from Dave Pehling of the Washington State University Extension Office, followed by several years of testing and refinement by Randy.
I have included a video of the build along with a PDF version of the plans.
Best Mason Bee Houses
Now that you have an idea on what to look for, it’s time for us to share our choices for the best mason bee houses. Below you’ll see a selection of different kinds—keep in mind the points above and consider how much time you’re willing to invest.
Wildlife World Interactive Mason Bee House
This mason bee house from Wildlife World is perfect for the gardener who wants to attract helpful pollinators. This bee house is an interactive model, which essentially means that it will attract different kinds of bees. These include leafcutter bees and different varieties of mason bees.
One great feature is the material. Wildlife World made this bee house from long-lasting timber, meaning that it can withstand even the toughest elements. This also means that it’s a mason bee house that may host several generations of bees.
Wildlife World has created several unique products used to attract birds and helpful garden insects. They’ve become known for creating mason bee houses resembling the bees’ natural habitat, thus attracting more pollinators.
Everything is thought of. Wildlife World has its own workshops where the staff ensure that all the materials are safe for the bees and nature. One example is that they only use water-based stains and paint on the bee houses—there are no harmful chemicals.
To provide some extra protection, there’s a metal plate on the roof of the house. It forms a ridge at the top, so rain can flow down without disturbing the hatching bees.
The bee house itself has an equal width and depth of 8.6 inches, it’s approximately 7.8 inches tall, and weighs roughly 2.45 pounds. There’s plenty of room for the female bees to lay eggs.
The house also consists of removable trays, or extraction trays. These will allow you to have hands-on experience with the bees. You can inspect them, clean out the waste, and harvest the cocoons.
You can easily hang this bee house by your garage or near your garden. However, just be sure to find a sheltered location for the bees.
- Durable FSC-certified material withstands the outdoor elements without being treated with harmful chemicals.
- Trays make it easy to examine the bees—you can see how they’re doing and spot potential predators.
- It provides a safe environment for the bees. The tubes are long and it features a mesh screen to stop birds from breaking in.
- This mason bee house may also attract other solitary bees, making it akin to a small bee hotel.
- It’s relatively lightweight, despite its large size.
- The hook used for hanging the house is too small. This can cause the bee house to lean forward, which isn’t optimal for the bees.
- The top row of tubes can be difficult to tend to and the cocoons are tricky to remove from there.
KIBAGA Mason Bee House
We love this humble abode from Kibaga. Right from the start, this house will grab your attention and keep it. The house is stunning, made entirely of durable bamboo, preserving nature in a sustainable way.
This mason bee house looks like a small basket. It consists of about 70 bamboo pipes surrounded by braided bamboo, forming a teardrop shape. It blends perfectly into the garden and there’s lots of room for plenty of bees.
The bamboo pipes are slightly recessed into the house, about 0.6 inches, giving the bees some extra protection. You can quickly remove and replace the tubes as needed. The house should stay with you for about two years, even through winter, where it provides a cozy home for the offspring.
The Kibaga bee house measures about 10 inches tall, 6 inches wide, and 4 inches deep. It’s very lightweight—approximately 1.8 pounds. The long tubes provide ample room for the females to lay both fertilized and unfertilized eggs.
At the top of the house, there’s a hanging rope, also made from natural materials. You can use this to hang the house either on the overhang of your home, by the garage, or on your garden shed.
Kibaga, however, recommends that you mount it against a flat surface. This is to prevent excessive swinging in case of strong winds. There’s also no overhang on the bee house, so make sure you place it away from direct sunlight.
The best location for this mason bee house would be in a spot protected from extreme weather conditions.
- Made from durable bamboo, it’s all-natural and relatively long lasting—will stay up to two years.
- It provides a safe and sheltered nesting place for mason bees, having slightly recessed tubes.
- The house comes with 70 replaceable bamboo tubes.
- It has a decent depth of 4 inches.
- Boasts a beautiful design which blends well in the garden.
- It might be too small for some bee enthusiasts.
- The tubes are quite loose—some may fall out easily.
- The light weight means it may swing a lot in windy weather if you fail to place it against a flat surface.
Welliver Outdoors Standard Mason Bee House
If you’re looking for something simple, a house that’s easy to use yet still good to look at, then look here. This mason bee house from Welliver Outdoors is a great choice for the hobby gardener looking to pollinate their garden.
The design of this mason bee house is simple and provides just what you need. The material used is cedar and paper. Cedarwood is excellent for constructing bee houses—the trees have grown self-protective traits.
These qualities, in turn, help the wood fight off tensions related to temperature, rot, and harmful insects. Temperature changes and humidity are common causes of cracking and mold. Thanks to the cedarwood, this bee house will likely stay a few years.
This bee house has a length of about 7.25 inches and a height of 5 inches. The depth is a decent 5.5 inches, where you’ll have plenty of paper tubes.
The paper pipes are very easy to remove and replace as needed. Although, Welliver recommends that you change them every one to two seasons. This is mostly to avoid pests, such as mites.
As opposed to the house listed above, this house can easily be placed on the ground. It fits well in a shaded corner of your garden, or on top of a woodpile. You can also choose to mount it on a building, like your garage or shed.
Place it away from bird feeders or birdhouses, though, as this would likely scare the bees away. And like the ones above, locate it away from possible windy spots.
- Simple design, made from strong cedarwood.
- Lots of paper tubes that are easy to remove and replace when the season ends.
- It has a depth of 5.5 inches which means there’s plenty of room for eggs.
- You can easily mount it on the side of a building, or simply choose to leave it on the ground.
- No premade hangers for mounting the bee house.
- The tubes are not recessed enough, compromising the safety of the bees.
- No landing space between the tubes, which the female bees tend to prefer.
SKOOLIX Hanging Insect House
If you’re on the hunt for a complete insect hotel, then here’s your bee house. This hanging insect hotel from Skoolix provides plenty of room for not only mason bees but also other beneficial pollinators.
The most noticeable feature in this bee house is the bright red entrance in the middle. This large, bright centerpiece will attract other helpful insects, such as ladybugs and butterflies, from afar. Don’t worry though, this hotel has six different chambers with various holes, suitable for any solitary bee.
The holes are pre-drilled and come in different sizes to suit both the biggest and the smallest bees. Some of the tubes are close together, but for the female mason bees, there are also those with landing space around the entrance. The holes will encourage both egg-laying and hibernating.
Because the holes are pre-drilled, this hotel is ideal for the hobby gardener who hasn’t got loads of time. You can pretty much leave the insects to do their job and let nature handle the rest. There’s no need for removing and replacing the tubes.
This insect hotel is a bit heavier than some others we’ve chosen, weighing around 2.8 pounds. It is, however, also quite large, measuring 10.6 inches long, 11.7 inches high, and 3.6 inches deep. The materials used are a combination of wood shavings, bamboo canes, wood blocks, and pine cones.
The roof features a big plus, namely a tin-coated surface. This surface provides protection from the elements and will help preserve the hotel through bad weather.
It’s also fairly easy to set up. It comes fully assembled with a pre-installed hanger and rope.
- Large insect hotel with ample room for both bees and other helpful insects.
- Plenty of different sized pre-drilled holes for the smallest and the largest bees.
- Bright red entrance in the middle for attracting butterflies and ladybugs.
- Natural materials, such as bamboo canes, pine cones, and wood shavings.
- Comes with pre-installed hanger and rope which makes for easy mounting.
- A tin-coated roof provides some protection against rain and snow.
- The pre-drilled holes are quite short for mason bees.
Niteangel Wooden Insect House
Having a sanctuary for mason bees and other beneficial insects in your garden can help your flowers bloom like never before. Unfortunately, helpful pollinators are often subject to pests and other dangers, but take a look here.
This wooden insect hotel provides a wonderful nesting spot for mason bees, as well as ladybugs and butterflies. It’s a protected environment for insects searching for shelter and hibernation locations.
The insect house itself is similar to the Skoolix version above, but a little smaller, at 10 inches by 6 inches. It features three sections with pre-drilled holes in different sizes. Some also feature ledges for landing.
Down in the corner, there’s a bright red entrance for attracting ladybugs and lacewings. These two species are particularly helpful as they eat aphids, helping keep your crops pest-free.
What you’ll also notice are the two other corners with mesh features. This provides additional safety areas where predators can’t enter.
The tubes for the solitary bees are all made from bamboo canes. The rest of the house is constructed using fir wood. Despite it being a type of softwood, the house is quite weather resistant.
The downside, however, is that it’s only 3.4 inches deep. This means that it’s at the minimum depth for mason bees, which is not ideal. In saying this, it’s quite easy to install anywhere and you don’t need a large yard.
- Plenty of room for bees as well as other helpful insects.
- Made from natural material that’s quite weather resistant.
- It features different sized holes, suitable for hosting different bee species.
- The insect house is compact and easy to install almost anywhere.
- At 3.4 inches deep, the tubes are at the minimum depth for mason bees; deeper tubes would be more ideal.
Meet a Mason Bee!
Around the Web: Mason Bees
- 10 Tips for Keeping Mason BeesKeeping native non-stinging mason bees – even in urban spaces – is a surprisingly easy way to help the environment, and it's also an inexpensive and educational project for kids.
- Mason Bees-The Master PollinatorsThe Mason Bee is named for its habit of using mud to build nest compartments. The orchard mason bee is one of the best pollinators around. They can easily be mistaken for a small black & blue fly about 2/3 the size of a honey bee.
- Bees, Birds and Butterflies ~ Ten Rules for Mason BeesAfter 20 years, many thousand bees, many successes and several failures, this site offers their Mason Bee Rules
Step 13: Attach Back
Trim or adjust the bent tube ends making sure nothing will stick out the sides of the backer plate. Attach the back plate tightly with screws.
Feeding Mason Bees
Make sure you place your mason bee houses near plants. These bee species adapt well to variety of trees and plants.
This includes any plant for there is no specific plant to serve this purpose.
You can incorporate wildflowers around the area.
4. The Bees Waggle Mason Bee House for Solitary Bees
The folks at NatureZ Edge have really outdone themselves with this great package.
Not only have they provided the housing unit for the bees, but it also comes with a 100% satisfaction guarantee.
The bamboo tubes are longer, unlike most mason bee houses. It assures an increase in your bee populace as there is more female production.
This bee hotel protects your bees from diseases with its lip design that protects them from rain and water invasion.
2. Welliver Outdoor Standard Mason Bee House
Success stories of this mason house are numerous. It’s small but sturdy.
To mount it, you would have to get out your toolbox and get it to sit on a bracket on a wall. Alternatively, you could set it up to sit like a mailbox on a stand.
The wood is a little heavier than you’d expect, so it is likely to stay put wherever you set it up. If you put it up in the early spring, you’re likely to get bees moving in almost immediately.
The tubes are all the same diameter and are made of paper, which the bees seem to love. Perhaps it reminds them of the reeds they would usually move into in the wild.
Once again, the entrance to the tubes is sheltered against rain, but you will need to consider a location that protects it from strong gusts of wind whilst being exposed to maximum morning sunlight.
The structure is very well built, and no doubt, the mason’s are likely to appreciate it.
1. Armstrong and Blackbury Solitary Mason Pollen Bee House
I’m not sure why I’m so partial to these cylindrical designs, but this is another one of my favorites. It’s a simple design with great engineering.
The cylinder offers insulation, which means you won’t have to bring the house in for the winter.
The package comes with nails, which make it easy to mount this house at a suitable location outside.
Some of the other designs aren’t so straightforward, and you should spend more time enjoying the services of the bee, not trying to figure out how the house can defy gravity.
Once the mason bees move in one year, you’ll have visitors every spring. That’s always a good sign.
It’s great to see tubes of different sizes that allow the house to shelter more than one species of bee. It’s a great conversation piece and has the potential to convert everyone to a bee lover.
Where to Place a Mason Bee House
Houses for mason bees should be a few feet off the ground. Optimally, this is 6-7 feet above the ground. You should also protect your mason bee house from the elements. Beekeepers and farmers with mason bees often choose to locate the mason bee house under the eaves of their garages, sheds or houses. If you cannot place the it under an eave, go for one that has its own roof. It should be an adequate roof to prevent water entering the mason bee house.
Some mason bee house designs in production have tops that turn into overhangs. These are the Cube Mason Bee house, Slant-roof mason bee house and the Hex Mason bee house. These three mason bee house types can be hung on a fence post or tree.
- Beekeepers who use paper products in their mason bee nests risk losing more in a predator attack.
- Mason beekeepers facing squirrels and other small animals may use a protective layer of chicken wire over their mason bee house. This prevents the animal from pulling tubes and chambers from the nest and eating the contents.
For purposes of providing food for mason bees, beekeepers should place their mason bee houses near plants. Beekeepers do not need to have specific plants to keep mason bees. The bees adapt well to a variety of trees and plants. Native wildflowers that you can incorporate in the area near or around your mason bee house are recommended.
Your mason bee house is best placed with its back towards a flat surface. This seals up one end of the tubes and leaves entrances to one side only.
The bee house should be put in a location where it receives some significant amount of sunshine and warmth. Mason bees love a little warmth for an early start to the day. Popular locations are facing the direction the sun rises from. It allows the mason bee house to be illuminated and heated early in the morning. As the day progresses, the house can then be under shadow so it remains cool. Early light and warmth makes mason bees start the day and expend less energy warming their bodies up. In some regions, the south and south east directions are best for location of mason bee houses. Mason bees need to reach a body temperature of 90 F to start flying.
The location you choose during setting up and installing your mason bee house, should take into account predators and harvesting. Robins are predators of mason bees. Crows, woodpeckers and starlings can also wreck havoc to your mason bee population. Storing away your mason bees nest can protect it from predators when need be. The early mornings are the most vulnerable time for mason bees. This is the time they are warming up. They also get attacked by these predators while out gathering mud and food resources.
Osmia can pollinate very efficiently, which is largely attributed to their anatomy and behavior. Unlike most other bee species that collect pollen from their hind legs, female Osmia and other bees in the Megachilidae family use pollen-collecting hairs from their abdominal scopa. When Osmia transfer pollen to flowers, dry pollen falls from the scopa onto the flower’s stigma, facilitating pollination at nearly every visit. Osmia typically pollinate early spring flowers in the family Rosaceae, and will even forage under poor weather conditions.
Some farmers currently manage populations of Osmia to facilitate efficient pollination on their farms. However, using non-native Osmia species as managed pollinators has ignited the spread of disease, introducing invasive bee species that increase competition for native bees. In some areas, native Osmia species are in decline as of 2020; practices to minimize the impact of non-native pollinators on wild species include prioritizing the use of native bee species, raising local bee populations, and enforcing parasite/disease screening.