New Mason Bee Nests

The new Mason bee houses are all in place.  I must admit that the building of these houses are all due to the skills of my long-suffering husband.  There are plenty of helpful sites on the net if anyone wants to make some themselves.  Compared to the shop built house I think ours are better, if the Net information is to be believed.  It is suggested that holes be 10 cm. long whereas our shop built nest had bamboo tubes of only  8 cm. long which were not well protected from the elements.  Again the opinion seems to be between 6-8 mm. diameter for the holes and some of the bamboo tubes from the shop built house were 1 cm in diameter.

I was pleased to have been given some large bamboo poles but found most of them were too large in diameter to be used.  Some of our bamboo tubes were cleared of internal walls by a manoeuvre with an electric drill which I do not think was in keeping with Health and Safety regulations so I will let you work out your own methods for that.  It is amazing how many bamboo tubes you can squash into a given area, we have had to put a few larger ones in as filler but they will also act as a comparison with the finer ones.

Charentais style Mark I

Charentais style Mark I

Using a spare roof tile as the protection from the elements, this first style was quickly realised using cut bamboo canes and tied securely to the plum tree in the back garden.

Charenais style Mark II

Charenais style Mark II

The roof tile serves again in this model but the holes are provided in a birch log specially drilled with a 6mm drill bit.  The whole is firmly wedged into the willow at the bottom of the garden.  The tree is already covered in furry catkins that will provide lots of pollen when they have fully flowered.

Mason bee house Mark III

Mason bee house Mark III

Mark III has pride of place in the front garden, not far from the original house and sports a choice in 6 or 8 mm drilled holes in a log with additional accommodation available on a second level, provided by bamboo in varying diameters but chiefly between 6-8 mm.

I think the houses are in place with plenty of time to spare.

I was both disappointed and confused when I compared the photo of our original bee house last April with the bee house as it is at present.

 Present on left, last April on right,

Present on left, last April on right

There were four sealed holes in April 2012 on this face of the house, whereas there are only three now and one of those has a tiny hole in it.

In addition, the two sealed holes now present, were not there last April.  I was under the impression that there was only one brood a year so it looks as if  I’ll have to keep a closer watch on the holes this year to see what is happening.  It could be predation.

September 2010

September 2010

I thought this cute lizard was just curious and looking for a cool spot to relax in but now I’m not sure.

Prospective occupant

Prospective occupant

I hope the new bee houses will be looked upon favourably.  Two filled hole on one side and another filled hole on the reverse (with a little hole) does not seem a great stock of future Mason bees but I am hopeful that there may be others hiding away in the stone walls of the house and surrounding buildings.

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37 thoughts on “New Mason Bee Nests

  1. How industrious you are! I’m assuming that the bees here have plenty of places to nest in our tuffo walls, that’s where I see them, although I know they nest in the ground too. Christina

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    • I think they have plenty of space here too as I’ve seen them in the walls but I enjoy watching them. I’d also like to see when they come and go and it is easier to watch them in the ready-made nests.

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  2. Your mason bee houses are very inventive. I particularly like Mark 3. The bees now have such a variety of housing to choose from.It’s almost like resort style accommodation!

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  3. Your bee hotels look absolutely wonderful. In fact, I will modify mine to take on some of your features, like the canal tile roof and I like the way you’ve wedged smaller pieces of wood underneath to help with stability. I’ve already had problems with what I think are probably martens using the bee hotels as springboards, so I need to get mine more firmly fixed in the trees. I think any hole between about 5mm and 12 mm has potential, and if you have a few 15 – 20mm, the Violet Carpenter bees will use them. 8cm deep is probably minimum. The possibility of lizard predation is interesting — I wouldn’t have thought they could get to the larvae in most nest holes, but worth watching for. The biggest danger is parasitism. All but one of the nest holes in our back door were parasitised (Osmia cornuta uses the drainage holes under the window and sill — about 5mm diameter, maybe 5cm deep and west facing — the bees obviously haven’t read the info sheet).

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    • I agree with the fact that the insects don’t read enough of the right books! I think it gives you an idea of where to shoot from if you are just starting and then it is interesting to see how far out of the norm the ranges can be. I don’t really think our lizards would be as active as to try to scratch out the nests in the hunt for food, they much prefer to catch what passes in front of their noses but you never know. Do you think the Mason bees might have two broods here? I’m sure Bombus lucorum has more than one in this area.

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    • Glad you liked them and good luck with trying some for yourself. The bought one I’ve had for years wasn’t expensive and to give it credit, it worked – mine have to be tested yet. The proof of the pudding…

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    • I don’t think my husband would agree. My contribution was to gaze longingly at some lovely bee houses I saw in the UK. My husband took up the gauntlet or rather the electric drill and my contribution was net research and encouragement of the type “Can you cut a few more bamboo tubes, dear?” and “I’m sure you’ll find a lot of use for a 6 mm extra long drill bit.”

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  4. Ooh Amelia now I have bee house envy! I am particularly impressed by Mark III and want one in my garden! 😀
    I made a very unimpressive one (by your aesthetically pleasing standards) the year before last, by putting lengths of bamboo (which we cut from someone’s garden who advertised on FreeCycle) into a length of plastic water bottle tubing. A grand total of no bees nested in there, and the canes went all mouldy… I think I need a Mark II!

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    • It seems a shame your bee house went mouldy as it sounds a good idea. I wonder if it was just the exceptionally damp UK weather of last year. I wonder, too, if the houses have to “mature” a bit before being accepted, that something that might show up this year if my new ones stay empty.

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  5. Amelia: two links that you might find interesting — the first is to a French blog based down south. Lucie is reporting that she has male Osmia cornuta and Xylocopa violacea in her garden, so the females aren’t too far away http://lejardindelucie.blogspot.fr/2013/03/le-printemps-est-en-route-ces-messiers.html.

    The second is an article in Nature entitled Bees, Lies and Evidence-based Policy, by Lynn Dicks, from NERC. It’s well worth a read. Lynn hangs the article on the current discussions around the possibility of the EU banning neonics, but she is primarily engaging in some myth-busting, and reflecting very well what professional entomologists really think. To summarise, bumblebees are endangered, honey bees are not, and no one really knows what’s going on with solitaries. The situation is very complicated and she makes an interesting comparison with the CFC situation some years ago in terms of the media and public reactions. http://www.nature.com/news/bees-lies-and-evidence-based-policy-1.12443

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  6. Thanks for that link! I will be looking under all the plastic tables now! What fantastic photographs. I must admit I have not got good enough photographs of my bees to make a proper species identity. If they come back this year, I’ll try harder. My bee nest is hanging on the lilac tree in the front garden and very handy for close scrutiny and I’ll really keep a look out now. I have already seen a carpenter bee but haven’t seen any feeding yet.
    I have read that article by Lynn Dicks. it was so good to read something so well-written from someone who really knows what she is talking about and is an authority on the subject. She takes a pragmatic view of misinformation which, I suppose will never be eradicated, and works with it.

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  7. well these are just fantastic, they must look so beautiful in the garden, i am not sure if we have mason bees out here on the prairies of Illinois, I am from NZ, but i would really like to have a go at making these, of course one might need a long suffering husband for the chore too!! c

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    • You can buy insect hotels online and at gardening shops if you fancy a go. There are so many different types of bees that it would surprise me if you did not have some solitary bees in Illinois. They might be there already, I have just found some building nests in the ground.

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    • According to the article at

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mason_bee

      there are indeed North American species of mason bees. When I saw this post I kept thinking about Mason jars, which are named for a person, but the article says that mason bees “are named from their habit of making compartments of mud in their nests, which are made in hollow reeds or holes in wood made by wood-boring insects.” In other words, these bees act like masons.

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  8. Pingback: Mason bee hotels or houses | a french garden

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