best mason bee house

Best Mason Bee Houses

Mason bees are not like honeybees—they’re a solitary species rather than social. However, they are great pollinators. Many farmers actually install a mason bee house to attract this hardworking bee, who gives back by pollinating their crops. If you have a garden full of vegetables and fruit trees, then read on.

Providing a mason bee house is a great idea to help bring more pollinators to your area. Today we’ll reveal the best mason bee houses that you can install on your property. After you’re set up, just sit back and watch these little bees move in and get to work. Your garden will soon yield a great harvest.

What to Look for in a Mason Bee House

Mason bees are a species native to North America. They’re solitary bees which means that, as opposed to honeybees, they don’t live in colonies. Each fertile female finds a suitable nesting place where she’ll lay her eggs.

In the wild, Mason bee females look for places where cavities or tunnels are already created. These could be holes in trees or other natural hideouts.

Then they simply move in and start laying eggs. The mason bee female will forage for pollen, bring it back and place it in the tunnel. She lays her egg on top of the pollen and seals the area off, using mud. She then repeats the process, laying five to six eggs.

Ideally, the holes are about ⅓ inch in diameter. They should at least be 3 to 4 inches deep, ideally more. It’s important that the tube is deep, some even recommend up to 6 inches. The female bee will lay her fertilized eggs first, the new females, followed by unfertilized eggs (males), until she has filled the tunnel.

A mason bee house is not the same as a beehive—these bees don’t produce honey or wax. Their sole purpose in life is, predominantly, to mate and pollinate.

A mason bee house is rather simple. A basic design would consist of a container for shelter, with holes or tubes for the eggs. It resembles a birdhouse in many ways, but instead of a single hole, it should have several. You can even make one from scratch, if you’re up for the task.

What you need to look for depends on how hands on you want to be in the bees’ lives. There are houses where you don’t have to do anything—nature just runs its course and the bees die when their season ends. For a more hands-on approach, you could buy a model with removable chambers. Let’s have a closer look.

Tubes, Drilled Holes, or Trays

Probably the most cost-effective product to look for is a bee house with tubes. These usually consist of either cardboard stacks, bamboo, or reed tubes. This makes it very easy to raise and keep mason bees, because you can replace the tunnels as needed.

If you choose a mason bee house with drilled holes, you’re in for a very hands-off season. It’s basically a wooden container with drilled holes. You can’t remove them for cleaning, so you’re just leaving them there for the bees. There’s not much for you to do other than watch as nature takes over. It will house your bees for one or two seasons, and following that you’ll generally have to replace it.

If you can afford to spend a few extra bucks, then I’d recommend looking for a mason bee house with trays. These are surprisingly easy to take care of. You’ve still got the holes, but now they’re stacked upon each other. You can easily unstack them to inspect the house, or when the season ends, for a winter cleaning.

Look for a house where the holes aren’t too close. The bees like to have some room to move around before entering and exiting.

Material

The material is important to consider as well. When looking online, chances are that you’ve come across mason bee houses made with plastic or PVC tubes.

This may sound easy to clean, but these could create moisture and condensation, risking infection and disease for the bees. It’s also not as natural as bamboo or cardboard, so the bees might not feel at home.

Another thing you should avoid is softwood—high-quality, sustainable hardwood is the way to go. Softwood could expose your bees to excessive moisture and even parasites. Hardwood will also stay with you longer without breaking down and cracking.

The last thing I’ll mention here is the roof—though it’s not a necessity, it’s a good thing to consider. Look for a model with either a copper or metal roof that extends about 2 inches over the main container. Copper and metal can sustain the outside elements, and the extra 2 inches will protect the tubes from rain and wind.

Best Mason Bee Houses

Now that you have an idea on what to look for, it’s time for us to share our choices for the best mason bee houses. Below you’ll see a selection of different kinds—keep in mind the points above and consider how much time you’re willing to invest.

Wildlife World Interactive Mason Bee House

This mason bee house from Wildlife World is perfect for the gardener who wants to attract helpful pollinators. This bee house is an interactive model, which essentially means that it will attract different kinds of bees. These include leafcutter bees and different varieties of mason bees.

One great feature is the material. Wildlife World made this bee house from long-lasting timber, meaning that it can withstand even the toughest elements. This also means that it’s a mason bee house that may host several generations of bees.

Wildlife World has created several unique products used to attract birds and helpful garden insects. They’ve become known for creating mason bee houses resembling the bees’ natural habitat, thus attracting more pollinators.

Everything is thought of. Wildlife World has its own workshops where the staff ensure that all the materials are safe for the bees and nature. One example is that they only use water-based stains and paint on the bee houses—there are no harmful chemicals.

To provide some extra protection, there’s a metal plate on the roof of the house. It forms a ridge at the top, so rain can flow down without disturbing the hatching bees.

The bee house itself has an equal width and depth of 8.6 inches, it’s approximately 7.8 inches tall, and weighs roughly 2.45 pounds. There’s plenty of room for the female bees to lay eggs.

The house also consists of removable trays, or extraction trays. These will allow you to have hands-on experience with the bees. You can inspect them, clean out the waste, and harvest the cocoons.

You can easily hang this bee house by your garage or near your garden. However, just be sure to find a sheltered location for the bees.

Pros

  • Durable FSC-certified material withstands the outdoor elements without being treated with harmful chemicals.
  • Trays make it easy to examine the bees—you can see how they’re doing and spot potential predators.
  • It provides a safe environment for the bees. The tubes are long and it features a mesh screen to stop birds from breaking in.
  • This mason bee house may also attract other solitary bees, making it akin to a small bee hotel.
  • It’s relatively lightweight, despite its large size.

Cons

  • The hook used for hanging the house is too small. This can cause the bee house to lean forward, which isn’t optimal for the bees.
  • The top row of tubes can be difficult to tend to and the cocoons are tricky to remove from there.

KIBAGA Mason Bee House

We love this humble abode from Kibaga. Right from the start, this house will grab your attention and keep it. The house is stunning, made entirely of durable bamboo, preserving nature in a sustainable way.

This mason bee house looks like a small basket. It consists of about 70 bamboo pipes surrounded by braided bamboo, forming a teardrop shape. It blends perfectly into the garden and there’s lots of room for plenty of bees.

The bamboo pipes are slightly recessed into the house, about 0.6 inches, giving the bees some extra protection. You can quickly remove and replace the tubes as needed. The house should stay with you for about two years, even through winter, where it provides a cozy home for the offspring.

The Kibaga bee house measures about 10 inches tall, 6 inches wide, and 4 inches deep. It’s very lightweight—approximately 1.8 pounds. The long tubes provide ample room for the females to lay both fertilized and unfertilized eggs.

At the top of the house, there’s a hanging rope, also made from natural materials. You can use this to hang the house either on the overhang of your home, by the garage, or on your garden shed.

Kibaga, however, recommends that you mount it against a flat surface. This is to prevent excessive swinging in case of strong winds. There’s also no overhang on the bee house, so make sure you place it away from direct sunlight.

The best location for this mason bee house would be in a spot protected from extreme weather conditions.

Pros

  • Made from durable bamboo, it’s all-natural and relatively long lasting—will stay up to two years.
  • It provides a safe and sheltered nesting place for mason bees, having slightly recessed tubes.
  • The house comes with 70 replaceable bamboo tubes.
  • It has a decent depth of 4 inches.
  • Boasts a beautiful design which blends well in the garden.

Cons

  • It might be too small for some bee enthusiasts.
  • The tubes are quite loose—some may fall out easily.
  • The light weight means it may swing a lot in windy weather if you fail to place it against a flat surface.

Welliver Outdoors Standard Mason Bee House

If you’re looking for something simple, a house that’s easy to use yet still good to look at, then look here. This mason bee house from Welliver Outdoors is a great choice for the hobby gardener looking to pollinate their garden.

The design of this mason bee house is simple and provides just what you need. The material used is cedar and paper. Cedarwood is excellent for constructing bee houses—the trees have grown self-protective traits.

These qualities, in turn, help the wood fight off tensions related to temperature, rot, and harmful insects. Temperature changes and humidity are common causes of cracking and mold. Thanks to the cedarwood, this bee house will likely stay a few years.

This bee house has a length of about 7.25 inches and a height of 5 inches. The depth is a decent 5.5 inches, where you’ll have plenty of paper tubes.

The paper pipes are very easy to remove and replace as needed. Although, Welliver recommends that you change them every one to two seasons. This is mostly to avoid pests, such as mites.

As opposed to the house listed above, this house can easily be placed on the ground. It fits well in a shaded corner of your garden, or on top of a woodpile. You can also choose to mount it on a building, like your garage or shed.

Place it away from bird feeders or bird houses, though, as this would likely scare the bees away. And like the ones above, locate it away from possible windy spots.

Pros

  • Simple design, made from strong cedarwood.
  • Lots of paper tubes that are easy to remove and replace when the season ends.
  • It has a depth of 5.5 inches which means there’s plenty of room for eggs.
  • You can easily mount it on the side of a building, or simply choose to leave it on the ground.

Cons

  • No premade hangers for mounting the bee house.
  • The tubes are not recessed enough, compromising the safety of the bees.
  • No landing space between the tubes, which the female bees tend to prefer.

SKOOLIX Hanging Insect House

If you’re on the hunt for a complete insect hotel, then here’s your bee house. This hanging insect hotel from Skoolix provides plenty of room for not only mason bees but also other beneficial pollinators.

The most noticeable feature in this bee house is the bright red entrance in the middle. This large, bright centerpiece will attract other helpful insects, such as ladybugs and butterflies, from afar. Don’t worry though, this hotel has six different chambers with various holes, suitable for any solitary bee.

The holes are pre-drilled and come in different sizes to suit both the biggest and the smallest bees. Some of the tubes are close together, but for the female mason bees, there are also those with landing space around the entrance. The holes will encourage both egg-laying and hibernating.

Because the holes are pre-drilled, this hotel is ideal for the hobby gardener who hasn’t got loads of time. You can pretty much leave the insects to do their job and let nature handle the rest. There’s no need for removing and replacing the tubes.

This insect hotel is a bit heavier than some others we’ve chosen, weighing around 2.8 pounds. It is, however, also quite large, measuring 10.6 inches long, 11.7 inches high, and 3.6 inches deep. The materials used are a combination of wood shavings, bamboo canes, wood blocks, and pine cones.

The roof features a big plus, namely a tin-coated surface. This surface provides protection from the elements and will help preserve the hotel through bad weather.

It’s also fairly easy to set up. It comes fully assembled with a pre-installed hanger and rope.

Pros

  • Large insect hotel with ample room for both bees and other helpful insects.
  • Plenty of different sized pre-drilled holes for the smallest and the largest bees.
  • Bright red entrance in the middle for attracting butterflies and ladybugs.
  • Natural materials, such as bamboo canes, pine cones, and wood shavings.
  • Comes with pre-installed hanger and rope which makes for easy mounting.
  • A tin-coated roof provides some protection against rain and snow.

Cons

  • The pre-drilled holes are quite short for mason bees.

Niteangel Wooden Insect House

Having a sanctuary for mason bees and other beneficial insects in your garden can help your flowers bloom like never before. Unfortunately, helpful pollinators are often subject to pests and other dangers, but take a look here.

This wooden insect hotel provides a wonderful nesting spot for mason bees, as well as ladybugs and butterflies. It’s a protected environment for insects searching for shelter and hibernation locations.

The insect house itself is similar to the Skoolix version above, but a little smaller, at 10 inches by 6 inches. It features three sections with pre-drilled holes in different sizes. Some also feature ledges for landing.

Down in the corner, there’s a bright red entrance for attracting ladybugs and lacewings. These two species are particularly helpful as they eat aphids, helping keep your crops pest free.

What you’ll also notice are the two other corners with mesh features. This provides additional safety areas where predators can’t enter.

The tubes for the solitary bees are all made from bamboo canes. The rest of the house is constructed using fir wood. Despite it being a type of softwood, the house is quite weather resistant.

The downside, however, is that it’s only 3.4 inches deep. This means that it’s at the minimum depth for mason bees, which is not ideal. In saying this, it’s quite easy to install anywhere and you don’t need a large yard.

Pros

  • Plenty of room for bees as well as other helpful insects.
  • Made from natural material that’s quite weather resistant.
  • It features different sized holes, suitable for hosting different bee species.
  • The insect house is compact and easy to install almost anywhere.

Cons

  • At 3.4 inches deep, the tubes are at the minimum depth for mason bees; deeper tubes would be more ideal.

Why Should You Buy a Mason Bee House?

We all know that honeybees are strong pollinators and honey producers that live in large colonies beekeepers can look after for years. Mason bees are different, though—they’re solitary and don’t produce honey or wax.

Mason bees are still valuable, powerful pollinators to have flying around the garden, though. They emerge much earlier than honeybees, which means that they’re great for the early spring flowers. Besides this, some studies also revealed that they’re much more efficient, visiting more flowers than honeybees.

Mason bees are relatively easy to attract. They are also considered safe to keep around family and pets, since they rarely sting.

Male bees don’t have stingers and the females are usually busy building and laying eggs. The only reason a female mason bee would sting was if you handled her roughly or threaten her directly.

Mason bees also don’t carve their own tunnels, hence they’re no threat to wooden structures, unlike carpenter bees. As we covered earlier, the females seek out pre-made tunnels. These could be anything from woodpecker holes to insect-made holes, or of course, man-made bee houses.

Where Should You Install a Mason Bee House?

Although you can buy mason bees, most people simply wait till the wild bees find the bee house themselves. However, finding the best location is key.

Mason bee houses should ideally be elevated above the ground, by at least a foot; some even say at least 6–7 feet off the ground. This way, it’s protected from potential predators from below.

If you can’t hang your bee house, you can attach chicken wire to the front. The bees can still enter through the gaps, but predators, such as squirrels and birds, can’t.

The location you choose should also be in a spot where it’s protected from harsh winds and rain. This could be beneath the eaves of your house, shed, or garage. As we’ve seen above, some mason bee houses come with ropes, whereas others have hangers.

You can hang it in almost any location, even a fence post would suffice, just make sure it’s against a flat surface. This will not only provide protection on windy days, but the end of the pipes are then sealed off, protecting the brood.

You should look for an area near vegetation. Mason bees can fly far, but they would much rather have their foraging spot right outside their door. You don’t need specific plants, however, but they do tend to favor native wildflowers.

Before you set up your mason bee house, inspect your potential spot throughout the day. If you’re in a warm location, then choose a place with morning sun, but shade in the afternoon. This is usually on the east side of a building.

If you live in a colder climate, such as the north, then pick a spot with more sun throughout the day. Take care that the mason bee house isn’t getting too hot though, or the bees will stay away from it.

How to Install and Maintain a Mason Bee House

Installing and maintaining a mason bee house is not as time-consuming as a honeybee hive. All you really need is an afternoon where you have a few hours to spare.

You might want to consider purchasing a bundle of mason bee cocoons. These are tubes filled with mason bees in their cocoon stage. There are many places to buy these online, and perhaps even locally, depending on your location.

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If you buy a tube of cocoons, you must refrigerate them at 37 to 39 degrees Fahrenheit, with 60 to 70 percent humidity. Anything warmer than this will cause them to emerge too early, and they’ll likely die.

But before we get into the how-tos, let’s look at when it’s best to install the bee house.

When Should You Install Your Mason Bee House?

Timing is everything when it comes to purchased mason bee cocoons. Mason bees usually emerge earlier than honeybees, but you still want to wait until the weather warms up. The earliest mason bees, such as the Blue Orchard, will emerge as soon as the temperature stays above 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

It’s best to wait until your garden flowers are blooming and ready for pollination. This will ensure that the emerging bees have enough food. If you have mason bee cocoons, it’s crucial to have everything ready for spring.

Mason bees will emerge from their cocoons as soon as they heat up.

Although mason bees don’t produce honey or beeswax, they’re extremely busy. The adults will mate as soon as the females emerge. The females are then on a tight schedule to find a nest, gather nectar and pollen, and lay their eggs.

If you don’t have cocoons to install, then make sure your mason bee house is ready for the nest-searching females.

Installing Your Mason Bee House

How to install your mason bee house depends greatly on which type you’ve bought. Some come ready and assembled, so all you have to do is mount it on a wall. Others, however, require you to place the tubes in the main container.

This is fairly easy to do, but there’s one common rookie mistake—placing the open end of the tube against the back wall. Doing this will end in one of two ways—the female bees can’t enter the bee house, or the cocoons inside can’t exit.

Find the open end on the tubes and place them facing outward in the container. Once these are in place, you’re ready to mount the bee house in your chosen location. Now, remember the points above about choosing a place that’s not too hot or too windy.

Most mason bee houses come with a pre-installed hook, but many recommend that you place an additional screw in the center. This is not a necessity, but it will provide extra stability on windy days.

Maintaining a Mason Bee House

Keeping mason bees isn’t as difficult as keeping honeybees, but if you’re new to beekeeping, you should do your research. Although it might seem like a laid back hobby, plenty of things can go wrong in that little house. The tubes can become clogged, or mites can infest them, among other things.

Mites will probably be one of your worst enemies. They infest the tubes and attack the cocoons. Those who fall victim will not emerge as adults.

Fortunately, because the tubes in most bee houses are removable, you have a better chance of discovering mites in time to clean the cocoons. Mites transfer during mating or contact inside the nest where they’ll be transmitted to the eggs, compromising a new generation.

There are several ways that you may prevent this from happening, and as mentioned above, the best way is by cleaning. You should only do this between October and December, then you’re sure the bees are fully evolved and can survive the process.

Take them out and soak them in water not warmer than 50 degrees Fahrenheit, removing mud and debris. Use a sieve and gently move the cocoons around. Then it’s time for a disinfectant bath.

You can make this by mixing one teaspoon of bleach with a gallon of water. Place the cocoons and let them soak for 10 minutes before rinsing with cold running water. Let them air-dry on a towel and then place them in your refrigerator.

Other than keeping mites at bay, there’s not much to do now, other than letting nature run its course. Many mason beekeepers take out the tubes once the season ends. This will help to ensure your bees survive the winter.

After the larval stage, the mason bee spins a cocoon, where it will stay over the winter. Beekeepers look out for when the bee activity in their garden begins to decrease, marking the end of the season. They remove the tubes, clean the cocoons and secure them in the fridge until the following spring.

Once spring warms up the air and the flowers begin to bloom, the cocoons are moved into a release box, near to where you hope they will make their new home. Soon the first males will emerge, followed by the females, marking the start of a new generation.

Summary

Mason bees are great pollinators and are safe to have around the garden. Investing in a mason bee house is an excellent way to pollinate your garden and help protect these bees. Place the mason bee house against a flat surface near flowers and trees and watch the bees move in.

We hope that our guide, together with reviews of the best mason bee houses, has inspired you to help this important species to survive.

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