My garden thrives when bees are hard at work pollinating flowers on everything from squash to roses. Over the years, there seems to be fewer and fewer bees, which causes me to wonder what’s going on.
I have had some success planting bee-attracting flowers, but another method has met with better success. First, I make a list of everything I’m growing and do some research to find out what species of bee pollinates the particular plant.
One of the things I learned was that not all bees live in massive hives. Some, called solitary bees, live in small groups or by themselves. They like to nest in the ground or in the hollows and cracks of decaying logs or trees. They do not produce honey, and are far less hostile than other species.
I discovered making bee condos, which made use of wood scraps from my workshop. It could not be easier to make these wonderful condos.
You will need:
- · Scraps of wood at least a foot long
- · Drill with six-inch long bits, ranging from 3/16″ to 3/8″
- · Material to make a roof
- · Construction adhesive for the roof
- · Non-toxic paint (optional) or weatherproofing
- · Hardware to mount to a fence or shed (optional)
- · Hollow wood tubes or straws can be used if no wood ends are available
Drill holes of varying widths into the grain end of the wood, at least six inches deep and ¾” apart. Any size of wood is usable, for example, I used a dozen pieces of 2-by-fours, 4-by-4’s, 2-by-2’s and 2-by-12’s to make a stack of wood filled with holes in the ends.
I glued the pieces together to form a condo that looks like it was made with geometric shapes. I sanded and primed the outside and back of the blocks. No primer or paint was applied to the front of the wood where the bees would make their entrance. On the outside and back, each shape was painted with a different bright color for esthetics and to attract bees.
I had a piece of 12″ diameter PVC pipe that worked beautifully as a roof- I painted it a bright, sunny yellow and attached it with galvanized screws.
I installed a four-foot tall post in the yard near my flowers and securely attached the condo to it. It is out of full sunlight and wind while allowing the bees full access to my garden.
The hardest part was waiting for solitary bees to show up and set up housekeeping. By choosing different plants, I eventually found bees entering and leaving. Unfortunately, a storm took a nearby tree down right on top of my poor bee condo.
I’ll rebuild and attract more bees. Next time, I’ll make sure the condo is a safer place and mount it higher off the ground. The bees were stressed by the sound of the lawnmower. Even though I use a battery operated 24volt mower, the noise still bothered them. Imagine the sound of a gas engine.
The condos can be mounted from three feet off the ground to 15 feet; mounting one in a tree is certainly acceptable.
For those who need visual directions, I have included two Utube videos here.
- · http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CIVgYqIIPyU&feature=em-uploademail
- · http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HWv3HrVoXZs
It’s fun to watch the bees travel from flower to flower and back to their custom condo. If you want the bees to stay, you do have to resist the urge to visit or look inside. Setting up a waterproof outdoor webcam would be a better idea.
Kids love to watch bees and the garden will be better and healthier.
Source: Staff Article, “Building A Bee Nesting Block,” Chicago Botanic Garden website, no date given
Source: Staff Article, “Bee Condos: If You Build It, They Will Come!” TCBeekeeper website, no date given
Source: Staff Article, “Building A Bee Condo,” Canadian Wildlife Federation website, no date given