Spring is almost here, so that means that if you haven’t yet, it’s time to plan your garden. Whether you plant fruits and vegetables, or just flowers, it’s beneficial to have a bee house.
Bee houses are not the same as beehives. While beehives house honey bees for the purpose of collecting honey, bee houses are for solitary bees. Solitary bees do not make honey, but are excellent pollinators.
Some people buy mason or leafcutter bee cocoons for their bee houses. Others set up the house and wait for the bees to come on their own. Read on to learn how to attract bees to a bee house.
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Why Have a Bee House?
One of the biggest reasons people like to set up bee houses is for pollination. And while honey bees are known for being pollinators, mason bees are actually 120 times more effective at pollination than the honey bee.
For that reason, mason bees are often used by farmers as commercial pollinators. You don’t need to be a farmer to benefit from mason bees though. A simple bee house placed in your garden will ensure your garden produces a bountiful harvest.
Help Native Bees
Just like the honey bee, native bees are facing a major decline in their population. In fact, nearly 40% of native bee species in the US are at risk of becoming extinct. One way we can help native bees fight back is by planting pesticide free pollinator gardens and providing bee houses for shelter.
Raising mason and leafcutter bees are a fun, easy, family friendly activity. Both bees are very docile and will rarely sting, so no protective gear is needed. It is truly fascinating for both kids and adults to observe the bees flying to and from the bee house, carrying pollen, leaves, and mud.
I like how it’s a hands on activity that gets kids out in nature. Before setting up the bee house, they may want to paint it themselves. Kids can also learn a lot about the ecosystem if you explain to them what pollination is, and how it affects the food we eat.
What Kind of Bees are Attracted to a Bee House?
Mason bees are a popular solitary bee that are known for constructing their nests using mud. Mason bees are very docile, making them great bees to keep around your garden. Mason bees will pollinate anything, but particularly like fruit trees such as plums, cherries, and peaches, and pears.
Leafcutter bees are known for cutting circular pieces out of leaves and using them to build their nest. Like the mason bee, leafcutter bees are fantastic pollinators and rarely sting. Leafcutter bees enjoy pollinating alfalfa, blueberries, carrots, and onions.
How to Attract Bees to a Bee House
Provide Proper Housing
The first step in attracting bees to a bee house is to provide a good home for them. You can make your own bee house, or you can purchase a pre made one. The important thing is that you use the correct size nesting tubes for the type of bee you are attracting.
Mason bees prefer 8 mm nesting tubes, while leafcutter bees like 6 mm tubes. Additionally, your bee house should be placed in an area free of predators and protected from wind, rain, and direct sunlight.
Plant a Pollinator Garden
A pollinator garden is a surefire way to attract bees to a bee house. That’s because the pollen and nectar from the flowers is an important food source for the bees. If you are attracting leafcutter bees, you should also have plants that they prefer to use for their nests, such as roses and azaleas.
Provide a Mud Source
Mason bees require mud to construct their nests, so if you have a good mud source nearby it’s more likely mason bees will come. You want to have an open area of wet mud close within 25 feet of the bee house. Some people get this by digging a hole in the ground and adding water.
If you do not have the dirt to create a mud source, you can also use a mud mix. Mason Bee Mud Mix provides the perfect moist, clay like mud that mason bees are looking for. It’s easy to use – all you have to do is add water.
Donaldson Farms Attractant Spray works by using mason or leafcutter bee scent pheromones to draw the bees to your bee house. To use it, spray onto the front of the nesting holes. This spray does not guarantee that the bees will stay at your location, but it does greatly improve your chances that bees will come.
An alternative to trying to attract bees to your bee house is to buy mason or leafcutter bee cocoons. The cocoons are to be placed in the bee house when the weather is warm enough. The bees will hatch and choose a nesting hole to lay eggs in.
Having a bee house in your garden is a fun family activity that also helps native bees. To attract bees to a bee house you should provide good housing, provide a mud source, plant a pollinator garden, and use an attractant spray.