Many farmers and gardeners cultivate the docile, solitary mason bee in order to improve pollination. As mites devastate honeybees, those who work in agriculture seek a replacement for their essential role in pollination. Mason bees are loyal and will continue to visit plants, especially fruit trees, in an area where their needs are met. Bees are attracted by flowers or flowering trees, but establishing a living environment for them will ensure that they remain and continue to pollinate your plants.
Things You'll Need
- Blooming flowers and/or fruit trees
- Drill bits (1/4-inch and 5/16-inch)
- Untreated plywood or lumber (about 4 square feet)
Ensure you have a good crop of blooming flowers or fruit trees. Mason bees will only take up residence in a place where they can access plenty of nectar. You may want to plant additional flowers to increase your chances of mason bees remaining on your property.
Drill an equal number of 1/4-inch and 5/16-inch holes in the piece of wood. These holes should be about 1/2-inch deep. Mason bees will nest inside these holes. Female bees will hatch from the larger holes, and males from the smaller. Make sure the holes do not have any debris or wood shavings inside, as this will repel mason bees. Place the holes close together, but not so close that they break into each other.
Attach the piece of wood to a fence, tree or stable surface in an area that gets lots of morning sunshine, and preferably very near the area that needs pollinating. Use screws and a screwdriver to make sure it does not fall. Try to secure it in a place that is protected from rain, as water can fill the holes and drive bees out. Bees prefer their elevated nests to be several feet above the ground. You can also purchase mason bee houses from many online sources and some local farm supply companies.
Dig out a nesting area for the mason bees on the ground. These bees prefer to lay their eggs in two locations. A soil nest gives them the option of nesting in wood or mud, and increases your chances of housing a permanent population. Expose several feet of muddy soil and keep it damp. Seek soil that resembles clay for the nesting area, as sand or rotting plant material makes it difficult for mason bees to nest. Mason bees will reward you with an almost perfect pollination rate.