How to Make Bee Boxes

Do-it-yourself homes for orchard bees.

| March-April 2009

  • A Mason bee home
    A bee home constructed by Gordon Cyr.
    Courtesy Cordon Cyr,

  • A Mason bee home

A bee box is a place where bees can find cover and create the next generation. You can make them quite easily, or, if you'd rather, you can buy them.

The Orchard Mason Bee, unlike other types of bees, does not live in a nest or hive; instead, it lives in holes in blocks. Other insects drill holes for themselves, sometimes destroying the wood in the process, but not so with Orchard Mason Bees.  They find holes that already exist and use them.

Building a bee house:

  • Find some scrap lumber (be sure your wood is untreated) and your drill. Using drill bits of various sizes (the Mason bees seem to like 5/16ths of an inch best), drill holes 3 to 5 inches deep. Do not drill all the way through the wood. (For example, if you're using a 5-by-5 drill holes that are 4 1/2 inches deep.)

  • If there are birds to keep away, cover the holes with chicken wire.

  • Now take your box and attach it to a building, fence post, or tree – on the South side.

  • Take some bee boxes to other places in your community. Another location may have many bees, which you can capture and move to your place.

  • Once your bee house is in place do not move it until late fall (November).

  • Be careful not to spray any insecticides around your bee boxes.

For more information see resources, or check out the National Wildlife Federation website.

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