Be certain the bee home you purchase actually helps bees and doesn’t harm them.
Some companies are taking advantage of people’s willingness to help (and spend money) to create a wild bee sanctuary. Unfortunately, some people have unintentionally bought what are referred to as “death traps” when they wanted to help native mason or leafcutter bees.
Inspired by Colin Purrington’s tips. Good houses need:
- The right kind of bee on the label! See a picture of a honeybee? Take that as a clue — the creators are clueless. These homes are for solitary bees like mason and leafcutter bees! Learn how to tell the difference.
- Removable tubes or trays. For example, in October mason bee cocoons need a bath to reduce bee deaths by keeping parasite numbers low and preventing disease spread. If the tubes are glued in, you won’t be able to harvest and clean bee cocoons to increase their chances of survival.
- Nesting tubes that close at one end (at the back of the house). This will stop another access for parasites.
- Nesting tubes about 15 cm long. Anything shorter and you’ll end up with a skewed sex ratio or mostly males. Females are in the deeper chambers. The hole diameter for mason bees should be 0.79 centimetres (or the diameter of an HB pencil).
- No slivers or sharp edges! Check tubes for inside splinters that will damage bee wings and bodies. (When bees emerge in spring, exiting the tubes should not be a death-defying feat!)
- A roof with an overhang. If too much water gets in, it’ll cause mould, as it could in our own homes!
- A solid attachment or mount. Homes should not dangle from a string or wire. Luckily, this is something you can easily fix if the house meets all other criteria.
- Breathable nesting tubes. Avoid glass and plastic straws for nesting tubes. They can mean more condensation and mould. The preference is for paper tubes. Or try natural plant stems (close the end off).
- Instructions. If the home doesn’t come with details about which species it will help, how to hang it and how to care for bees, it may be best to leave it on the shelf. If it does meet the above criteria, check in store if they offer a guide, book or workshop.
- To be alone. Avoid those that look like condos. It just attracts more parasites to one area.
What if you bought the bad house and it appears full of critters? Wait for critters to emerge and clear it out this spring. Then don’t use it again.
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