I had been waiting to take my tubes of mason bees out of the cheese drawer in the fridge and put them into the garden until I had enough pollen to feed them, and that day has arrived. One of my viburnums has been providing me with clusters of white flowers all winter, but one shrub isn’t enough of a feast for the approximately 40 mason bees my garden will be hosting. Also, since this is my first year keeping mason bees, I’m not even sure if they’ll like the viburnum flowers. This weekend I noticed that the creeping myrtle (Vinca minor) and blue bells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) have bloomed, and if the bees are willing to venture across the street, there are plum trees and forsythias in full bloom.
I opted to make my own bee house, and because I’m still a beginning wordworker, I made a 3-D model of it first in Sketchup, Google’s 3-D drawing program. Sketchup is a fun program for planning out woodworking projects, once you get past the learning curve of how different it feels than most 2-D drawing software, or even other CAD software. I’m having doubts that it’s a good overall garden planning tool, but I’ll save that discussion for another post. If you’re interested in making a similar bee house (or it could also easily be converted to a bird house), it would be possible to make a very similar one with only a miter saw, or maybe even a circular saw, but I wanted fancy miters on the corners, which would have been tricky without a table saw. The french cleat I used to mount it also could be tricky without a table saw.
I filled the house with mostly EasyTear straws that I got from Crown Bees, because they’re cheap, clean, and hopefully won’t be a hassle when it’s time to open some straws and check on the bees in the fall. I also added a few bamboo sections, mostly out of curiosity whether the bees would use them. The sticks you can see jutting out here and there I added to give visual cues to the bees to help them figure out which straw is theirs. I added the blocks of wood on top so that a bird or other animal wouldn’t find it convenient to nest right on top of a tasty food source. The house is mounted against a wall that gets great morning sun, and right above the garden with my peas and raspberries.
The final ingredient the bees will need is mud, but that certainly won’t be a problem to find in the coming weeks in Seattle!