Making Homes for Wild Bees

Bees are a vital cog in ensuring a healthy garden; here's how you can make homes for wild bees.

| August/September 2005

Wild Bees

Wild bees in your garden is a sign that things are going well.

Photo courtesy Ludmila Smite/Fotolia

Making Homes for Wild Bees

Solitary cavity-nesting species such as mason bees are attracted to logs and dead trees, as well as hollow branches such as bamboo or sumac. Elderberry stems also are good because they have a soft pith that’s easily cleaned out. David Green of says don’t place elderberry stems out too late in spring because they also are susceptible to potter’s or mason wasps — although those are beneficial natives, too. Wild bees also will make their home in a suitable handmade dwelling, in a dead tree trunk, block of wood or bundle of tubes. Here are three easy-to-make bee homes:

Bundled Sticks

Bundle together a dozen or so 10-inch-long pieces of half-inch-diameter bamboo or sumac that have been hollowed out at one end with a drill or awl. Stuff the bundle into a coffee can or piece of PVC pipe, and then wire it securely onto a tree branch or fence post.

A Nesting Block

Start with an 8-inch-long piece of untreated 4-by-6 or 6-by-6 wood post, or use a short log. Drill three-eighths-inch holes, 6 to 7 inches deep and at least 1 inch apart. Blacken the front of the block by placing it in a fire for a minute or two. Attach the block to a post or tree branch.

A Bee Stump

Drill into a tall existing tree stump, making 6-inch-deep, three-eighths-inch holes that are spaced 2 inches apart on the south and east sides of the stump.

General Tips

A secure entrance is crucial, so holes about three-eighths inch in diameter are best. The tube-shaped holes also should be at least 6 inches deep, so you will need an extension bit for your drill. Several species can control the gender of their offspring, and they like to place female eggs deep in their burrows, with male eggs closer to the entrance. That way, males will be waiting when the females emerge. The holes should be closed at one end to ensure the safety of the eggs, too.

Early spring is the best time to put out new bee nesting blocks, because that’s when females are seeking new homes. Locate the nests at least 3 feet off the ground in a place where they will get warm morning sun and attach them securely so they won’t shake in the wind. Make the holes slope slightly upward so rainwater does not run into the holes. As summer progresses, you will know you have tenants if the holes or tubes become plugged with mud or debris.

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