We know bees make honey, but sometimes we forget their most important job is pollinating food crops, like almonds, avocados, Brussels sprouts, onions, and much more. Researchers estimate bees help pollinate up to 1/3 of all the foods we eat, and up to 90% of wild plants.
Sadly, many species have started disappearing in recent years. Honeybees have been hit by a syndrome called “Colony Collapse Disorder,” which may result from pests, diseases, and other factors. Native wild bees are in trouble, too, but we can help by putting out boxes for nest-dwellers.
Cut out the sides for your bee box. Measure 10 ½ ” up on the 1×6 board and mark. With an angle square mark a 30 degree line and cut. Use the 1 cut side as a template for your 2nd side and cut out. Cut your bottom piece. Since a 1×6 is actually 5- ½ ” wide, you will need to cut your bottom piece 5- ½ ” long.
Cut the top piece. You will be cutting another 30 degree angle. Set your circular saw or miter saw to 30 degrees to make the cut. Then measure the board 7- ½ ” from the point, make your mark and cut.
Cut the piece for the back. The piece for the back is simply a board 15 ” long, as seen on the left. You are done cutting your boards now and the 5 pieces that you have should look like this.
Nail the bottom piece onto the 15 ” back piece 2 ” from the bottom. Get your nails started first, as this makes it easier, holding the boards in place for nailing. Next, nail the side pieces flush to the back piece and bottom piece. Once the 5 boards are nailed together, it should look like this.
Put the bamboo in place. The 5 ½ ” pieces of bamboo will sit flush with the front of your box. Start putting the pieces in randomly, while securing each piece with a little hot glue. Continue until you have worked your way to the top. Your box is now complete. (Note: you may want to add some chicken wire to the front to keep birds away.)
Using Your Bee Box
Face the box east or south, since bees need the warmth of the sun, and put it 3-5′ above the ground.
Make several boxes for different spots in your yard or orchard. Avoid using insecticides or pesticides around your bees, and after the bees leave, disinfect the boxes every year with 1 quart of water mixed with a tablespoon of bleach.
If you’ve already seen mason bees around, be patient, and with a little luck, they’ll move in and start working in your garden. Otherwise, you can order them from bee suppliers; search online for “where to buy mason bees.”
Put out an invitation to the bees by planting flowers, too. We’ve got lots of ideas for garden plants and wildflowers that will put out the welcome mat in your yard.
Want to learn more? Check with your local extension service for information on bee keeping, honey bees, and other bee species. Many universities and colleges also have courses and programs on bee keeping, so check with the schools in your area.
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