Bees that rarely sting? They're more than welcome in our garden. This native bee shelter will help the bees and your garden plants.

By Jenny Krane
March 19, 2019

We’ve all heard about it—pollinator populations are decreasing, and bees are dying from pesticides and urbanization. Honey bees and native bees alike are struggling to find safe places to lay eggs and continue the circle of pollinating life. Even if you’re not up for beekeeping and harvesting honey, you can take small steps to help native bees like masons and leafcutters.

Image courtesy of Costco

Head to Costco to give mason bees a place to nest. The Mason Bee Barn is just $33 and looks more like a birdhouse than a beehive. Mason bees are solitary, so they don’t have a hive where they live with other bees. They also don’t produce honey—they spend their lives raising their young in nesting holes. Because they don’t have a hive or honey supplies to protect, they are less aggressive than honey bees and rarely sting. These bees are pollinating powerhouses, pollinating up to 100 times more effectively than honey bees.

Buy it: Native Bee House, $33

Mason bees need small, narrow places to nest where they can close up the ends for protection. Natural nesting tubes like reeds and bamboo stalks are commonly used for these types of native bee houses. The Mason Bee Barn uses bamboo to create nesting tubes of native bees to use for the season. The top section of the wood, hose-shaped structure doubles as a butterfly shelter to help the butterflies stay safe as well.

Placing Your Native Bee House

Place your bee house up high in your yard in a spot that gets morning sunlight. To attract native bees, plant native plants and flowers around where your bee hub is hanging. Add a moist patch of soil near the house so they have access to mud to close off the tubes.

Editor's Tip: While native bees rarely sting, it’s still important to keep those with bee allergies in mind. Check with your neighborhood association before inviting bees to your yard.

Related: Bees Are Surprisingly Smart—See Why it Matters

How to Harvest Bee Cocoons

After the mason bees have laid their eggs, you'll need to do a small amount of upkeep to make sure unwanted pests stay out of the cocoons. In the fall, remove the cocoons from reeds, bamboo, or reusable wood trays—you can store them in your garage or shed over the winter. Clean the wood trays, discard used nesting tubes, and check for signs of parasitic wasps, pollen mites, or fungal infections like chalkbrood.

Although bees sometimes get a bad reputation, not all bees are aggressive or invasive. Native bees like mason bees have tons of pollinating power to help your vegetables, fruits, herbs, and flowers thrive—and, they keep to themselves. Do your part to foster the native bees in your area.

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