Attracting more pollinators to your flower beds or garden is as simple as setting up an adorable mid-century bee house! Mason bees won’t necessarily show up because they love modern housing, but they do love to nest inside pre-existing holes. This nonaggressive species of bee isn’t big on stinging because they aren’t guarding honey and they aren’t the type that bore holes into your deck. All they bring to the party is flower power—and plenty of it! Set up a sweet little bee apartment block and enjoy knowing you’re helping your garden as well as your neighbors’!
A few things to keep in mind while you’re designing your bee house. Chemically treated wood isn’t a healthy option for your bees, but they don’t like the strong scent of cedar, either. Painting or staining your house might increase its charm but might also leave too much of a scent for bees to want to hang out. This means your bee home will eventually weather, but bringing it indoors from the end of fall to the end of winter will help avoid that. Knowing this, I’ve chosen inexpensive but sturdy wood to design this adorable, mid-century style bee abode.
-one 2″x 6″ x 8′ board cut into 18″ sections (not cedar) for the base
-one 1″ x 8″ x 2′ cut of poplar or pine for the roof
–two 12″ clutch lock bar clamps
–5/8″ spade drill bit
-sandpaper (120 and 80)
-two #8×2″ wood screws
-two #8×3″ wood screws
-two 6″ deck screws (not shown)
–heavy duty D-ring hanging kit
I like to purchase most of my lumber from one of the larger hardware and lumber stores that will make cuts in store but only because I still have an irrational fear of table saws. It’s also great when you get home with your supplies and the first step is already done for you!
Whether or not you’re cutting your own wood, make sure your 2″ x 6″ x 8′ board is cut into 18″ pieces. You’ll have a little extra when you’re done. Take four of those cuts and glue them together with wood or gorilla glue.Make sure your ends and edges are even and flush. Attach your clamps and follow the manufacturer’s directions for drying time. To ensure your four pieces of wood stay attached without waiting for the glue to dry, screw two 6″ deck screws through all four pieces of wood (from the same side). We’re going to be drilling through the sides of each board so that we aren’t drilling through wood glue. Find the center of the side and make a mark on the center of the second and fourth boards. This is your starting point on each board. Measure 3″ to the left and the right of that point on the second and fourth boards, and then 3″ out again from those marks so that you have 5 marks on the second and fourth boards.
For the first and third boards, find the center place between the marks on the second and fourth boards and mark those spots so that they’re centered on the first and third boards. This will create a diamond pattern overall with 6 marks on the first and third boards. Clamp your block of wood to your work table. Use your 5/8 spade drill bit to drill about 4″-5″ down into your boards. Since this is such a deep hole, drill in about 1″ and then reverse drill back up to pull out the sawdust. Then drill down another 1″, reverse back out, and repeat. Otherwise you’ll pack so much sawdust down around your drill that it’ll get stuck. As always, practice safety precautions when using power tools. Remove sawdust as you go by flipping it over or using a long screw to pull it out.
Sand down the front of your bee house. To smooth out the edges of your bee holes, wrap a piece of sandpaper around a pencil or screw driver and sand the inside edges of your hole.
This is the general angle you’ll want to place your roof over your block of wood. Make sure it’s centered with a little overhang on each end. The back of the house and the back edge of the roof should also be flush so you can attach it to a tree or wall easily. You’ll screw in your two shorter #8 screws (2″) down through the top of the roof about 1/2″ from where it rests against the block of wood and screw your longer two #8 screws (3″) down through the top of the roof about 1/2″ from the opposite end of the block.
To make this angle easier, use a piece of your scrap wood to wedge between the block of wood and the roof and clamp it in place. Then pre-drill straight down through your roof and into your block. Add your 3″ screws so that they barely go into the block and then remove your clamps and scrap wood. Twist your screws down just a tad so that they are screwed securely into the block but so you still have that mid-century angle we are going for.
Add your D-rings to the back of your bee home. You’ll want to place your bee home at least 3-4′ off of the ground to keep it out of reach of ground critters that might bother it. Unlike a bird feeder, you’ll need to mount this to a tree, post, or wall so that it’s fixed to a sturdy spot. Morning sun is best to help wake the bees up, so consider that when you’re searching for that perfect place. At the end of the summer you’ll want to clean out your bee home to keep things healthy and tidy for the next generation of bees in the early spring!
Anyone else excited about a more productive garden? –Rachel