Frequently asked questions
Where is the best place to hang my bee house?
- Select a location that faces southeast towards the morning sun (bees like to warm up before they fly).
- Hang your house on a sturdy post, wall, or other flat surface (make sure the house is tightly secured so it doesn’t wobble).
- Position the house at eye level, about 5-7 feet from the ground, so you can view the house.
- Place your house where it will get some wind protection.
- Avoid placing your bee house next to a bird house, since birds like to pull out the tubes.
Do I need to give the bees water or food?
Bees need pollen and nectar, so place your bee house near plenty of flowering plants and trees. Mason bees only fly about 300 feet from their nest; smaller solitary bees fly even shorter distances. You don't need to give the bees water, but mason bees do need clayey mud to build their nests. If there isn't a mud source nearby, you can dig a small hole within a few feet of the house and moisten it periodically unless spring rains do it for you.
Are children and pets safe around solitary bees?
Yes, solitary bees are not aggressive since they don't guard their nest like social bees. The male bees don't have a stinger, and the female bees can sting but rarely do. Their sting is more like a mosquito bite than a typical bee sting. Bee houses are a great way to introduce kids to bees, but if you are worried, place the bee house at a safe height above inquisite little hands.
How many mason bees should I order for one bee house?
One bee house has enough nesting material for about 50-75 mason bee cocoons. If just getting started, you can try 25 cocoons and see how the bees do in your location. If the bees do well in your area, you can easily double your numbers each year.
Do solitary bees swarm like honey bees?
No, solitary bees do not swarm. Even though solitary bees share the same house, they don't work together like honey bees and they won't swarm.
Will birds eat my bees?
Birds may take an interest in your bee house and bees. Some birds like to pull out the reeds and try to nest in the bee house. Other birds may try to eat the developing larvae inside the reeds. If birds or other pests bother your bee house, hang ¾” wire mesh around the house leaving about 3” in front for the bees to approach and land.
What will move into my bee house?
If you order mason bees from us, hopefully mason bees! But there are lots of other solitary bees and wasps that might move into your house. Leafcutter bees, resin bees, grass-carrying wasps, and potter wasps just to name a few. They are all beneficial insects and a treat to watch just like mason bees. Feel free to contact us to help identify any unique residents in your bee house.
Are there good things to plant for my bees?
Any pollinator-friendly plants are an excellent addition to your yard...and your bees will love you for it. If you are raising mason bees, look for plants that flower early in the spring like lilacs, serviceberries, and fruit trees. For bees in general, go native and have lots of variety so there is always something blooming in your yard.
What do I do with the mason bee cocoons?
As soon as your purchased cocoons arrive, place the small white box with the cocoons inside in your refrigerator. The cocoons need to stay cool until you are ready to place them outside. Around the end of April (about the time of dandelion bloom in the midwest), put the cocoons inside the provided white tube and place the tube on top of the nesting material in your house. The bees will emerge from the small hole at the front of the tube.
How long do mason bees live?
When the adults emerge, female mason bees live about 4-6 weeks, while the males only live about 1-2 weeks. The males come out of their cocoons first around mid-end of April. They wait for the females to emerge about a week later, and then there is a glorious week of mating. :) After that, the males die and the mated females spend the rest of their lives gathering pollen and laying eggs in their nest. By mid-June, most female mason bees will have perished. The young larvae inside the nests will develop throughout the summer and will be fully formed bees by the fall. They overwinter in their cocoons and then start the process all over again the next spring.
What is going on inside the reeds in the bee house?
Solitary bees are using the reeds as a place to build their nests. Solitary bees construct the cells in their nest out of a variety of materials depending on species. Mason bees, for example, build their nests out of mud. The female bee makes several trips gathering pollen that she provisions in the reed. When she has a small pollen ball in place, she backs into the reed and lays a single egg on the pollen. She then walls off the cell with mud and starts the process over again. One female can fill 2-3 reeds with 8-10 eggs per reed in her lifetime. Depending on the type of bee, you might see some reeds capped with mud, others with leaf pieces, and others with grass. Whenever you see a capped reed, you know that baby bees are developing inside.
I see holes in some of the capped reeds. Did something get my bees?
Probably not. There are certain species of solitary bees and wasps that have more than one lifecycle each season. So, holes in capped reeds typically mean that the baby bees developed and already came out. At times, birds can get into the reeds, but they more often pull the reeds out and then do damage to the reeds on the ground.