Making a mason bee home can be a fun project that takes about twenty minutes. This is a great, wholesome activity and makes a great holiday present!
First you will need appropriate tools: a block of wood to drill into that is at least 6 inches deep, an electric drill, a tape measure, screws, various drill bits, and tools to sculpt the wood. The piece shown aboe is about 9 inches long. Mason orchard bees needs wholes at least 4 inches deep to get an optimal male/female ration. The deeper the whole, the more females. The more females, the better.
A woodpile is especially helpful. I got the wood for the body of the mason bee house as well as the roof from this pile. All of this wood was picked up, for free, from my local transfer station, too. There's a lot of free wood, especially now with so many destructive storms. This free wood can be used for all sorts of projects, from home heating to making mason bee homes:
Perhaps the most important specialty piece of equipment is the 5/16" drill bit that is at least 6" long. Mine is 8". To attract mason orchard bees this hole diameter is very important, and as mentioned above so is the depth. You also only want an entrance hole -- no exit hole! This takes some care. The drill bit above cost me less than $15.
Once you have a piece of wood measured it's drill time! Please be careful while using power tools. There are all sorts of ways to get hurt and even die with misuse. It's better to go slow than to get electrocuted or drill a hole through your foot. Be cautious, read the manual, know what your doing and use common sense. Follow these directions at your own risk!
Once you have the holes drilled in the block of wood you are ready for the next step. Basically, I try to have a hole every half inch, but as you can see I'm pretty improvisational in where I put them on the face of the wood. The more holes, the more mason beescan make use of the wood. That said, a few holes in a fence post are better than nothing. I leave a few inches from the face of the wood that I'll put the roof on to avoid putting a screw through any of the holes.
Now's the time to attach the roof. I searched my woodpile for a piece that would cover the mason bee home adequately to protect against water. Finding a piece, I cut off the excess with a pruning saw:
I've found working with rough-hewn wood it's always important to predrill holes before putting in screws. It's nearly impossible to tell what wood will be too hard to screw directly into or split prior to messing up. For that reason I strongly advocate predrilling. for this mason bee house I used two Robertson head deck screws.
Now that the roof is attached and the mason orchard bee home is complete. That said, for it to function properly it needs to be placed somewhere where it will get sun in the springtime when the mason orchard bees become active, lay their eggs, and then start pollinating spring flowers and fruittrees. It also needs to be near exposed dirt so that mama bees can make their egg chambers, they will need access to water as well. It should face south or east to get the spring sunlight, and it should be 3 - 5 feet off the ground to avoid rain splashing up into it. Lastly, place it within about one thousand feet of plants that flower in the spring. Some possibilities include apple trees, peach trees, cherry trees, pear treas, raspberries, black berries, and maples.
The design I've shown allows for one to easily use the overhang on the back of the roof to attach the mason bee house to fenceposts. as shown above. Once its attached watch it during spring to see if bees inhabit it and use it to make a home ot pollinate your orchard! This is a fun project that takes at most an hour, one can do with friends and family, and is easy and satisfying.
I think they're supposed to be a little higher off the ground though
Cool looking commercial version (should be under the eves - out of the rain though)
5/16" hole is what I read as well but a lot of people use bamboo which is all sizes. The only long drill bit I have is 3/8" so that's what I'll be using. We're loaded with them here this year. They've been stinging em on the back of the elbows all summer. Doesn't hurt much and the hurt lasts for a minute maybe.
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