You may have heard that honey bee and bumble bee populations are declining; as a result, there’s concern that flowers won’t get pollinated. One gentle species, called the mason bee, rarely stings and can be attracted with a nesting house that you can easily make from a single board.
Mason bees lay their eggs in holes and crevices carved out by other insects, animals or the weather. But if you give them a block of wood with holes drilled in it and a roof to shield them from rain, they may establish a nursery in your garden.
Bees look for places to nest in early spring, so now is an ideal time for this project. To provide added incentive for bees to set up housekeeping in your yard, plant wildflowers, herbs (lavender, basil and borage) and bramble fruits (raspberries and blackberries), and don’t use pesticides.
- You can use a ruler or tape measure to mark the location of cuts on the board, but a story stick helps to prevent mistakes and saves time. To make a story stick, use a straight piece of scrap wood and mark 11-1/2 in. on one edge and 13-1/2 in. on the other edge (photo 1).
Cut off 2 in. of the 1x10 on one end to create a square, smooth starting edge. With a pencil and a story stick (or tape measure), start at the clean edge and mark where to cut each piece (see illustration in PDF below).
- It’s OK if your cut wood pieces don’t fit together exactly. Mason bees don’t demand perfection.
- Bees are extremely sensitive to chemicals, so don’t use cedar (which has natural characteristics that repel insects), treated lumber, glue, paint or stain.
- Hang the bee house in early spring at least 3 ft. above the ground in a sunny spot in or near the garden and facing away from prevailing winds. Leave it in place until at least November.
Now just wait for the bees to show up and thank you for your homebuilding efforts by pollinating your flowers.
Use a marker and scrap board or other straightedge to draw the cutting lines across the face of the board for the body, base and roof of the house.
Clamp the board to a solid surface and cut along the lines using a jigsaw (you can also use a handsaw or table saw). Be sure to support the end of the piece you're cutting to prevent splintering.
To assemble the body of the house, align two of the trapezoid-shape pieces and fasten them in each corner with nails angled slightly. Then place a third piece on top of the first two and nail it to the stack. Repeat with the remaining three pieces. Nail the base to the flat end of the stack.
Set the body with the attached base on the roof section; align the back of the roof with the back of the body and center the roof side-to-side. The roof should overhang the front of the house by about 2 in. to protect the holes from rain. Mark the placement; then flip the house over and nail the roof in place.
Bore nesting holes starting 2-1/2 in. below the roof and 2-1/2 in. above the base; mark holes on the face of the house 1-1/2 in. apart and staggered. Drill 5/16-in.-dia. holes 3 to 6 in. deep. Smooth the openings with sandpaper, and vacuum wood dust from the holes. Finally, attach picture-hanging hardware on the back.