Mason bees are a native bee found throughout most of the U.S., and are very effective pollinators. They are metallic blue or blue-black, and a little smaller than the honeybee. Mason bees pose minimal threat for stinging, as the males do not have a stinger, and the females only sting if trapped.
Mason bees are not able to excavate their own nesting cavities, so they lay eggs in whatever they can find. They like to lay their eggs in small cavities such as woodpecker holes, hollow stems, and artificial nesting cavities like cardboard tubes and paper straws.
A female mason bee forages for pollen and nectar from fruit trees, flowers and vegetables. She packs the nectar into the far end of a nesting cavity until there’s enough to feed a young bee. Then the female lays a single egg and seals up the cell. She continues this process down the tube until she has filled the entire chamber with eggs, then moves to the next tube. The larvae hatch a few days after the eggs are laid and begin eating the food the mother bee collected for them. They pupate in the cell and remain there over winter. The bees emerge when the weather warms in the spring.
Mason bee homes are simple to make.
Clean empty food can
Jute or rope
Bracket and 2 screws
Attach the bracket to the bottom of the can with a screw.
Using the pencil, roll up a single sheet of the magazine. You could also use a small dowel. Mason bees prefer cavities to be about 3/8″ diameter.
Carefully remove the pencil from the tube, secure with a small piece of tape if desired, and fold the tube in half. Depending on the size of your magazine pages and can, you may need to trim the ends of the tubes. The length of the folded tubes should be slightly less than the length of the can.
Repeat steps 2 and 3 until you have a handful of folded tubes about the size of your can. This can required about 30 sheets of paper which made 60 tubes.
Gather all the folded tubes in your hands and insert them all at once into the can. This works better than trying to put them in the can as you go.
Decorate your can with jute or rope. Tape one end down and wrap around the can and secure the other end with another piece of tape or glue. You could also use yarn, fabric or paint to decorate your new bee home.
Using the last screw, attach your mason bee home to a fence or post.
Try to locate your new mason bee home in a dry area, perhaps under an eave. If rain or water can get to it, the bees won’t use it. Having flowering plants nearby with help bees find it. Don’t be discouraged if bees take a season or 2 to find their new home. You will know they are using it when you see cells closed off with a mud covering.
To avoid pest and disease problems, artificial nesting boxes should be cleaned after all baby bees have left their nest. Simply remove the used paper tubes and replace with fresh ones.