How to Build a Mason Bee House and Bring More Pollinators to the Garden
Creating a natural habitat for bees and other pollinators is an aspect to gardening that we can cultivate. Increasing pollinator gardens and landscapes will help bees, butterflies, bats and many other species. You don't need a lot of space to grow a pollinator garden, even pots of flowers and herbs can grow on a balcony. If you have space consider growing hedgerows of pollinator plants around your vegetable garden. Beneficial species of insects help keep the garden and farm ecosystem in balance.
Plus, having pollinators about will triple the yield of many fruit and veggies in your garden.
What will you plant?
Pollinators generally thrive on flower nectar and/or pollen, however, the larval stages have a hunger for plant leaves. Good plants include herbs such as coriander, catnip, mint, parsley, lavender. Annuals like marigold, phlox, bachelor's button, zinnia, cosmos, salvia. Perennials are an excellent option as well.
Plant native species from your area. Native plants have closely evolved with native species. Also, make sure varieties are not considered an invasive in your area.
How to plant a pollinator hedgerow: Traditionally hedgerows are closely spaced shrubs and trees that can grow thick enough to form a fence. A pollinator hedgerow is grown to bring habitat to your garden.
Section off an area that runs the length of your garden beds. You can even frame your total garden/farm with pollinator hedgerows. Or use the side of your fence line to plant more flowers and herbs. Prepare soil with lots of compost as you would any garden bed.
Perennials are best if you are going to grow a pollinator hedgerow. Include:
- Bee Balm,
- Shasta Daisy
- Self Seeding Calendula
- Raspberry canes
- Try to plant enough diversity so that something is blooming at all times during the season.
Let some vegetables go to seed in your garden. Pollinators love brassica flowers of kale, arugula, broccoli, and turnips.
Allow a section of your lawn, or unused land to revert to wild grasses, meadow, and wildflowers e.g., milkweed and queen anne's lace.
Where will they live?
Create natural spaces for pollinators to live. Old logs, piles of sticks and brush, even upside down pots can be used to make houses.
Make sure they have access to water. Small pools, bird baths, and puddles are necessary for pollinator species.
It goes without saying not to use pesticides in your garden or farm, as they can wipe out key species of pollinator insects. However, it is also important not to use herbicides. Herbicides wipe out integral species of plants that pollinators depend on.
Build a Bee House
- Build a wooden box, like the one above, and fill it with layered stacks of brown paper nest tubes. Ask for these are your local garden store. These are important so you can check the tubes if your home gets overrun with mites.
- Cut the tubes to six inches or 15 cm long. Seal the end by stapling it shut. You can also make your own by rolling a piece of brown paper around a pencil, then pinch off the end and seal it with tape.
- Hang the house somewhere out of the rain, facing south or east.
- Make sure there is some mud around.
- It may take a full season for the bees to find your house. You can also purchase mason bees from a garden store or local beekeeper.
Consider all the needs for pollinators when designing a garden. Make sure you have flowering plants, good natural habitat, and water. Watch as you increase your beneficial insect populations.
About The Author: Katie Massy is an organic farmer, cultivating soil and spirit in the Gulf Islands of B.C., Canada. She is the founder and director of Women Who Farm. Her life, beyond counting worms and witnessing miracles daily, is filled with weekly visits to the sea, walks with the old momma trees, and enjoying a strong brew of something.
Check out her Farm Heart and Soil Organics