Many ask how they can attract more native pollinators to their garden. The answer is artificial bee nests, or “bee condos.” If you build them, they will come! Here are tips from The North American Pollinator Protection Campaign:
Many of the wild bees you may encounter in your backyard garden make their burrow homes in the soil. Some bees create hives in snags (a dead or dying standing tree, often with its branches broken off), or in holes in trees. You can also encourage bee-residents by providing man-made nesting blocks or “Bee Condos.” It’s easy to build a “Bee Condo” for your native bees.
4”x6” or 6”x6” untreated dried pine or cedar post (or you can try a weathered fence post or other scrap wood)
Drill and drill bits, a variety of diameters, ranging from 1/4 in. to 3/8 in.
Paper straws – not plastic (available at some hardware stores, or through a scientific supply store), or small hollow sticks, with one end sealed
A warm location protected from rain and predators.
HOW TO DO IT:
Cut the wooden posts into blocks 8-12 in. long.
Drill holes into the wood blocks using a variety of hole diameters from 1/4 in. to 3/8 in. Drill holes 3-5 in. deep, and at least 3/4 in. apart. Smooth out ragged edges of holes.
Alternatively, a bundle of paper straws or hollow sticks, with one end sealed, will make an attractive bee home.
Bees prefer dark colored homes, so consider charring the front of your “Bee Condo” lightly with a torch.
Mount your “Bee Condo” on a post or attach to the side of a building. Place nesting blocks so that tunnels are horizontal. Make sure they are in a warm location with southern exposure and protected from rain. A good place could be under the eaves of a garage or shed.
Visit The Pollinator Partnership, Native Bee Conservancy, The Xerces Society, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, National Wildlife Federation, UF - Native Buzz, and UC-Davis.
Many native bees do a more efficient job of pollinating than honey bees. For instance, you can use 2 hives of honey bees to pollinate an acre of fruit trees (that’s about 50,000 bees), or just 250 native orchard mason bees.
If you don’t want to build your own “Bee Condo,” consider these commercial sources for bee nests: