Wintertime, and all the busy bees are busy napping. But soon enough, the fruit trees will start flowering and the bees will start buzzing. The earliest native bees emerge well before the last frost date, taking advantage of sun-warmed days to collect nectar and pollen from early-blooming flowers.
This means that now — midwinter — is the best time of the year to boost your bee population. A bit of planning and DIYing now will leave you with one or more new homes for native bees, all ready and waiting for them to move in this spring.
Build your bees a home
It’s easy to construct a snug and useful home for native bees. All it takes is a handful of power tools and a segment of log or large tree branch. That, plus a bit of time and the willingness to clean up some wood shavings after the project is complete.
I’ve had wonderful success with one I built several years ago.
You’ll find the instructions here: Build a House for Native Bees
Or, buy your bees a home
Not feeling the DIY vibe? No desire to find your tools or make a mess? No problem! You can still keep the bees happy with a pre-built and purchased bee home. There are gobs of options out there. Just a few things to keep in mind:
- Avoid any bee houses that use bamboo as the nesting holes. Most bamboo is too wide for the bees to use, and will just be ignored. Instead, look for bee houses drilled directly into wood or made of paper bee nesting tubes.
- Look for a non-hanging bee house. Native hole-nesting bees are accustomed to homes that are relatively stationary — old trees, stumps, large branches, etc. Those bee homes that are designed to hang will swing in the wind, and may disorient or otherwise upset the bees.
- Look for something that can be cleaned. This is where the purchases bee homes do better than my DIY option. Ideally, you will be able to clean out the tubes every year, which will reduce the risk of disease and parasites. Some bee homes use removable paper liners, while others are constructed of stacked pieces of wood.
If I were buying a bee house, I think this might be the one I’d choose. The whole thing is constructed of stacked pieces of wood, which means that each level can be separated from the others for cleaning or observation. How neat to be able to take a peep at the developing bee babies! I also like how it looks somewhat similar to a honeybee hive. The naked wood should age nicely in the garden — definitely a front-yard-worthy garden accessory!
Here’s the link: Mason Bee Management System House
This is another great option. It’s not too much too look at, but this is about as streamlined and efficient as a native bee home can be. The long tube provides protection from the elements, while those paper tubes offer nesting holes in a variety of sizes, which means this home will appeal to a range of native bee species. Probably not a bee house to display prominently in the front yard, but it would probably be easy to hide out of sight of aesthetics-worried neighbors and HOA board members.
Here’s the link: Beebasics Easycare Tube Kit
And here’s a link for replacement tubes, which you’d probably need to order every spring: Crown Bees Mason Bee Holes, Easytear Tubes
More Bees = More Harvest
Whether you opt for DIY or buy, these native bee houses aren’t just good for the bees. Most species of native bees are incredibly efficient and effective pollinators. By adding a new home or two for the breeding females, you ultimately increase the population of native bees in your garden. That’s great for the bees, and for your plants. Because, more bees = better pollination = more crops to harvest!
What’s the bee situation in your yard? Are your flowers buzzing all summer long? Or, could you use a larger pollinator force?