The majority of our food crops benefit from pollinator bees, however the decline of these insects continues to be a huge concern.
There are many types of pollinator bees. Most common ones are honey bees, bumble bees and orchard mason bees.
Mason bees, named after their masonry skills for nesting in wood cracks and crevices, are active from early spring to late summer in our region. Although these solitary, non-stinging bees do not produce honey or beeswax, they are excellent pollinators.
You can encourage their pollinating habits by hanging mason bee boxes in your garden this spring. Mason bee homes or kits can be purchased from any garden store. However, you can turn this into a fun kids project and make your own mason bee hotel. All you need are some nesting tubes and a container.
Here are three easy DIY mason bee nest projects to get children involved with their environment and interested in helping the bees.
Birch trees shed their outer bark at the end of winter. This is the perfect time to collect the excess bark and use it as nesting material. Gently cut the excess bark off the tree without damaging it.
A quicker way for making a mason bee nest, is to use 6′ long bamboo poles. They are inexpensive and can be purchased at the dollar store.
This is the easiest way for making a mason bees’ nest, but it requires power tools.
For a more unique look, construct a bee hotel by mixing and matching materials, i.e. include drilled logs, bamboo tubes and birch peel tubes to form one mega-nest.
Add natural elements for decorations, like moss, lichen, pine needles, spruce branches, alder catkins, pine cones, leaves, rocks, sea shells, etc.
Early spring is the ideal time to hang mason bee houses, as the bees emerge from hibernation eager to find a nesting place, but you still have time!
In order to see the bees come and go, hang the nests at eye level on a south facing wall with morning sunlight. In addition, make sure to place the nests in an area protected from the rain (on a deck, under eaves, etc.).
To increase your chances of attracting mason bees, consider planting pollinator flowers such as wildflowers, asters, lilies, poppies, marigold, lavender, sage, basil, lupines, and flowering fruit trees or shrubs.
So, encourage your kids to learn more about pollinators this season by making and hanging mason bee hotels in the back yard.
“Bee-ild it and they will come”
Happy pollinating season!