Guide to buying and building mason bee houses

Suppliers of QUALITY mason bee houses and inserts

The following companies or individuals sell bee houses that have 6″ (152 mm) nesting holes, do not use bamboo, are disposable or cleanable, have overhangs, and aren’t suspended with a string.

If I’ve missed somebody, send me a note. Similarly, if houses on the above list have a flaw I’ve missed, let me know.

Make your own mason bee house

DIY bee hotels can be made in several ways, plus you can mix and match nest types. For example, my (below) hotel has (1) nesting trays with paper inserts, (2) wood blocks with inserts, (3) wood blocks without inserts, and (4) hollow stems (construction details here). FYI, I purchased my nesting trays and paper liners (both from Crown Bees).

The key is to build the hotel so that everything can be removed to make room for fresh nests each year. I.e., you replace everything except the house itself. Note: you can reuse drilled blocks of wood (or sections of logs) if you re-drill them (to remove debris) and then kill any residual mites and pathogens by briefly submerging in bleach (or baking, or freezing). Similarly, nesting trays should be cleaned and sterilized (Crown Bees has nice video of that).

Below are some links to houses I admire. If you have a construction question, pop me an email or bother me on Twitter.

PRO-TIP: If you absolutely want the cute look of a bee hotel but don’t want all the maintenance fuss, here’s a trick: print this photograph onto a large piece of paper and mount onto a board. To make it last, laminate or apply a coat of clear varnish.

“OMG I own a death trap what should I do?”

If you have a cheapo mason bee house that saddens you, don’t do anything rash. Just leave it up and let your current residents do their thing. But at the end of the season, after all the holes are filled, put it in an unheated shed or garage for the winter (so that birds don’t feast on the pupae). In early spring, put the whole house inside of a cardboard box (here’s an image of durable emergence box). Poke a small hole in the top or side so that emerging bees see the light and escape through that hole, and then set it outside in a place where it will stay dry. After all the bees finish emerging (summer), throw out the house. Or, better, burn it and record a video of the fire. Then post the video online to bring needed awareness to low quality mason bee houses. If you have a good photograph of a burning mason bee house, I could use one right here.

Questions?

Or just want to show off your mason bee house? Email me.

If you post your house pic online and want to tag me, I’m @colinpurrington on Twitter, @colin_purrington on Instagram. If you want to see pics of all the beasties that show up at my mason bee houses, I have them all on iNaturalist.