Bee houses attract wood-nesting and stem-nesting solitary bees - especially mason bees and leafcutting bees. Easy DIY bee houses can be made by following the basic guidelines – you can make them in blocks, as free-form sculptures, or whatever you can think of. If you make a bee house then you should consider joining our Bee Guardian Network and sharing your design with other people.
1. Find or cut a piece of wood which hasn’t been chemically treated; experiment with other materials which are chemically inert if you like (some bees also nest in the sides of brick houses and leafcutter bee nests have also been found in keylocks and field stethoscopes!)
2. Size: at least 12 cm long by 12 cm deep, though not necessarily rectangular
3. Drill into it – but not all the way through it – with a 3 mm to 10 mm wood bit and other drill bits larger and smaller (a range of sizes will attract various species of bees ); leave about 12.5mm between holes. Bees typically use holes which are only open on one end.
4. If you want to decorate their new home, you could use artist’s acrylic paint (water-based), or latex housepaint, as long as it doesn’t have anti-fungus additives. Stick to water-based glues. Those products dry quickly and are pretty innocuous chemically. Yarn, recycled cloth, felt, paper, hair, old toy parts…use your imagination!
5. Creating a roof to shield your little abode is a good idea
6. You can choose to insert straws into each hole, as parasites and fungus commonly make problems over time (thus keep an eye on your materials for #4).
7. Either attach a hanger to the roof or the backside and suspend from your house, or, affix to a poll for inserting into the ground (minimum 1 m up to avoid ants, etc; max probably no more than 3 m high to avoid strong winds), or, place on a table outside. Greasing the pole or table legs will help keep ants and spiders out.
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Note: Note: cavity-nesting bee homes will likely also attract solitary nesting wasps (bees evolved from wasps, thus their nesting habits have similarities). Fear not! Unlike social bees and wasps which have stores of tasty resources and young to defend, solitary bees and wasps do not, and so don’t bother to sting unless stepped on or squished (you can watch them from a close distance, they really don’t care). Wearing a long-sleeved shirt and pants and a hat, though, is a good idea to avoid accidentally trapping them in your clothes or hair.
Drawing (above) by Vera Ming Wong. Text by Sarah Peebles.