They sound lonely, but they’re really not. Solitary bees are excellent pollinators and you can encourage them to set up shop in your backyard with a solitary bee house. Instead of buying a ready-made house, try making one yourself as a fun summer project with kids, grandkids, nieces, nephews, neighbors or whoever wants to participate. It’s a great science lesson for young gardeners and a way to roll out the welcome mat for helpful bugs.
1. Make a wooden box at least eight inches deep. You can use recycled or waste wood if you prefer, or buy untreated, unpainted wood. A sloping roof to deflect rain is helpful.
2. Stack dry sections of untreated wood inside the shell of the bee house, up to about seven inches long, making sure they aren’t cracked or split. Drill holes into them of varying diameters between two and 10 millimeters, but no deeper. Depth doesn’t matter much — bees will still use deeper holes, but don’t drill to the other side. Make sure the holes face outward.
3. Place the bee house in full sun at least three feet off the ground with nothing in front to block the tunnels. Solitary bees need the sun’s warmth to survive. Make sure the house is firmly fixed and won’t sway or swing in a breeze.
What are solitary bees?
Not all bees live in a big community with a queen and workers. Some bees live alone and, although they do not produce honey or beeswax, they are important pollinators.
Solitary bees build their own nests and lay their own eggs. They use pollen to create food for their young in nests they make. Most solitary bees dig nests in the ground, but some make many small nest holes in wood. The bee deposits eggs in the hole and some food, then seals off the cell. She might make several nest holes, but usually dies once she makes the nests.
One more good thing about solitary bees: They rarely, if ever, sting.
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