As you can see by the photo at the top of the page, i like bees (and so does Lizzie). As you probably know, bees are the true workers in the garden, helping to pollinate a vast majority of flowers on vegetable and fruit plants. Life without bees would be bland indeed!
I’m giving them a helping hand by providing a home for some of the native solitary bees, known as orchard mason bees. Mason bees are incredibly active, and you can read more about them here. Mason bees do not do any damage to wooden structures, like the larger carpenter bee, and they naturally lay the eggs in old woodpecker holes, rotten logs, or under. As usual, life in an urban center has taken away many of the homes from nature’s little (and big) critters, as people tend to remove any dead trees from their yards, taking potential bee homes with it.
The basics of what these bees need is a tube of some sort, around 5/16″ in diameter, about the width of a pencil, and 6-8″ long. The first method was drilling a bunch of hole in some wood: i used some scrap cedar 4″x4″ i had lying around, about a foot tall Gluing two of them together allows nice deep (8″) tunnels for the bees, and the little roof will help keep out the rain. Be sure to not drill all the way through the wood as they use houses with only one door.
Second method was stack a bunch of tubes in a little house. I used bamboo, cutting each one just below a knuckle ensures a single doored house, and the variety of sizes will provide homes for different species (i need to cut more to fill it up…). Shoot for 6″-8″ long, and a hole of 5/16″ in diameter. I built a little house, with a slight overhang for protection from the elements, and a board on the back for secure mounting. Slap some paint on it, and one bee condo is ready for moving in! I’ve seen old coffee cans and small plastic buckets used as well.
The best location is a somewhat sheltered, sturdy place with good morning sun as the bees are early risers and need the warmth to get going. The wood block will go on a fence post near the apple trees, and the bamboo condo will go on one of the pergola posts.