Friday, October 22, 2010

Bee House Bundles!

Don't you just want to shimmy inside one of these cozy little bee residences?  After harvesting an armful of Festuca stems topped with airy seed hulls, I saved the trimmed stems which looked like little straws and decided to bundle them up into tiny native bee condos. 

After attending the "Gardening for Wildlife" class at Tilden Park a few weeks ago with the Meeses, I've been stepping back to consider what my garden provides and what it's lacking.  While I provide tons of nectar, seeds and larval food sources, shelter remains in "some other place" for the daily visitors I receive. 

Hopefully these little straws, hanging horizontally from my Malacothamnus shrub will attract tiny little bees and other insects to sit and stay awhile.  Then in turn, insect-eating birds will decide to come 'round.  Then, dare I wish for a Red Tail Hawk to do a screeching fly-by?! 

While the neat ends look appealing to me, the bees supposedly will prefer the varying ends, choosing a straw close to a joint in the stem that they can build their nest against.  Hanging it 3 to 6 feet off the ground helps prevent moisture from rotting the straws and also keeps the obvious predators away.  I've read that bees need the morning sun to warm their wings (much like my morning coffee, I guess!) before they begin their day's journey, so orienting the house East or South-East facing makes the chances of this house getting used much greater.  The Pollinator Conservation Handbook can be an excellent resource for such things!

Since native bees come in all sizes, small lengths of bamboo or varying diameters of holes drilled into wood also do the trick.  Not all bees use ready-made holes, however.  Carpenter bees make their own by chewing a tunnel into wood, while bumble bees sometimes use discarded rodent nests.

Many projects to come in order to better provide for wildlife, but in the meantime I'll hang my houses and wait impatiently for the parade of woodland animals and insects! 


  1. Very cute! The only alternative bee house we have here is for Mason Bees (Osmia lignaria), apparently they're fussy about both the length and the depth of their nesting tunnels. I'm not all bees are that picky though. I'll be interested to see who actually takes residence!

  2. Those are neat! We have tons of carpenter bees that nest on our deck...they are very welcome as they have a liking to bean and tomato blossoms...great pollinators.

  3. Very cool! I thought those were noodles first, but they probably wouldn't do well in the rain. BTW, last year at the bee garden they said what 70% of native bees want is bare dirt. No mulch. And then they just make their little nests underground, cave dwellers that they are, and ignore our beautiful houses...

  4. Hi Clare! Maybe no one will take residence, but it was fun to feel a little crafty!

    Joe, I am so so jealous of your carpenters- those are my absolute favorite and if I wasn't already planning on being a hummingbird for Halloween this year, I'd be a carpenter for sure!

    Hey TM! I feel my wildlife gardener self conflicting with my garden designer self over the bare ground issue. However, you're totally right- I found a leaf-cutter bee capsule in my veggie garden this season. No crafting required!