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Most of us are familiar with the honey bee but very few people have ever heard of the mason bee, one of the best pollinators in the planet. Mason bees, just like honey bees, have been human’s companions for many years. Mason bees are tranquil and coexist peacefully with humans. These bees are an excellent choice for those who would like to increase the productivity of their garden. They also add an aesthetic value to your home.
Mason bees do not produce honey or wax. They are immune from Varroa and Acarine mites that attack honey bees. Mason bees are so called due to their preference in using mud to construct their nests. They may also use clay, chewed plant tissue or grit in making a nest. Mason bees are increasingly reared for their pollination abilities in the production of fruits and nuts.
The mason bee with its signature metallic blue or blue-black color is common in the United States. It is a type of native bee that is smaller in size when compared to the honey bee. There is also the red mason bee which more resembles the honeybee in terms of looks. In North America, mason bees number about 140 species and all live in solitary conditions, and are quite different when compared to the honey bee. A female mason bee only stings when trapped or squeezed whereas the male mason bee does not have a stinger at all. These bees pose little or no threat when kept in the home garden. They are easy to keep and with the best mason bee houses (also called nest houses), you can enjoy a great experience with these little critters.
In Depth Overview of the Best Mason Bee Houses
Since mason bees prefer to make their nests close to each other, choose an excellent bee house that allows for this. It is also important to dispose or thoroughly clean used artificial boxes after one or two seasons since mason bees do not reuse or recycle their houses. With that said, read on below to check out our top picks for the best mason bee houses.
10. Esschert Design WA02 Bee House
The Esschert Design WA02 Bee House is one of the most affordable options you can get and is easy to use. It is designed to encourage mason bees to reside within the unit and help pollinate your garden. This will ultimately boost the garden productivity and also ensure the mason bees are well protected.
This mason bee house weighs 2.88 pounds and has dimensions of 4.5 x 5.5 x 8.8 inches. It has an attractive overall design and is spacious enough to accommodate a number of mason bees. It is made of bamboo which is resistant to extreme weather changes as well as pest infestation. This house is also easy to replace the bamboo tubes as required by the mason bees. This is ideally a great choice for the gardener or nature enthusiast.Check Price
9. Welliver Mason Bee House
Next on our list of the top picks mason bee house is this bee house from Welliver. It is an expertly crafted design that offers an ideal home for your mason bees. This provides a low maintenance alternative to keeping of honey bees. The paper tubes that are provided are a perfect match for the mason bees. Install this in your home garden and you are sure to experience increased productivity in. Mason bees do an excellent job when it comes to pollinating flowers, fruit crops, and vegetables.
The paper tubes provided allows the female mason bees to lay their eggs, which mainly occurs during March to August in the calendar year. The Mason bee larvae shall then develop through the winter months and finally emerge as adult bees at the onset of spring. The tubes should then be cleaned or replaced preferably after 1 or 2 seasons of use. Replaceable tubes are a better choice since it helps to prevent mite infestation.
Since mason bees are not aggressive and never dig their own holes, they are the best to keep within homes as pollinators. The Welliver Mason Bee House weighs only 1.45 pounds and has dimensions of 7.2 x 5.5 x 5 inches and comes with sufficient number of straws to fill it up. It is also easy to mount at a convenient position within your home. Additionally, you can buy additional straws to refill later on.Check Price
8. Sanger Bee House and Insect Home
The Sanger Bee House and Insect Home is made using natural bamboo and features about 70 cylinders of nesting tubes. This high quality bee house has the potential of lasting for ideally 2 years even when kept outdoors. Nonetheless, it is important to clean thoroughly or replace them at least after 1 or two seasons of use. Mason bees are highly sensitive and may abandon the house if not replaced or cleaned well.
Weighing at barely 2 pounds and with dimensions of 4 x 10 x 6 inches, this mason bee house comes with a bonus rope hanger. It offers a suitable habitat for mason bees and other pollinators. Simply attach it to a nearby tree branch or garden stake and experience the benefits it will add to your garden.
This unit is ideal for alluring bees into your garden or backyard so as to help pollinate your plants and ultimately enhance your blooming flowers. It offers a great home for female mason bees. The design emulates insect holes and crevasses that are preferred by mason bees. They will therefore be easily attracted to this mason bee house. The unit is also ideal for carpenter bees that drill into garages and other wooden structures.Check Price
7. Gardener’s Supply Company Mason Bee House
This attractive bamboo bee house from Gardener’s Supply Company makes an excellent home for mason bees. It should be positioned in a place where it can get morning sun and attract mason bees. This bee house is ideally built to provide the required habitat for the bees. The tubes allow the females to fill in their eggs, pollen, and nectar which are required for propagating the brood.
Mason bees are known for their peaceful and non-stinging nature. They are also excellent pollinators unlike the honey bee that makes about 50 blooms within a day. The mason bee on the other hand visits approximately 1000 blooms a day. This will greatly boost the productivity of your garden.
This mason bee house weighs approximately 2.95 pounds and has dimensions of 9.5 x 5.5 x 0.8 inches. It is delivered without the bees and ready for use. The tubes are replaceable and its overall design is impressive.Check Price
6. Wildlife World Ltd Interactive Mason Bee House
A quality product at an affordable price is what this mason bee house represents. The unit is constructed using FSC certified sustainable timber which shows how environmentally conscious you are when you purchase it. It offers an ideal home for mason bees to multiply and thrive.
One of the signature features of this mason bee house is the fully removable inspection trays that allows you to easily view the bees. The timber is also durable and that means this mason bee house can bear weather changes for a long time. The solitary bee house is ideal for non-swarming bees such as red mason bee and the leafcutter bee. Its design is irresistible to these bee species and will fill it up within no time. The mason bee house will not only serve as a home for these pollinators but can also be used for educating kids and adults. You can easily open up the bee house for viewing which is a great advantage.
The 2.56 pound mason bee house with its 6.3 x 6.7 x 7.1 inches design is spacious enough to provide the required space for a number of mason bees. The spacious roof also shelters the bees from the elements of nature.Check Price
5. Nature’s Way CWH9 Insect House
This is a great choice for the gardener and mason enthusiast. It is made from rot resistant premium cedar that can also withstand harsh weather conditions. This mason bee house will help to naturally improve and maintain the health of your garden plants. Mason bees and other beneficial insect pollinators find this unit irresistible since it emulates the design of wood crevices and holes that these insects love. It also comes with an easy-mount hanger that allows you to position it within reach in your garden.
This mason bee house from Nature’s Way Bird Products has a dimension of 3.8 x 5.5 x 8 inches and weighs barely 1.25 pounds. It is nicely made and sturdy so as to last several seasons. The mason bees will love this house.Check Price
4. Evergreen Garden Wall Mounted Bee Habitat
This is a top pick for the savvy buyer. The overall design of the unit makes it one of the best homes for solitary bees. Those who would love to be part of the environmentally-conscious individuals should invest in this mason bee house. The exterior and interior design of the house make it possible for the bees to live and multiply without facing any danger associated with diseases, pesticides, or habitat destruction. It also makes it possible for the bee larvae to be secured from predators and insect pests.
This mason bee house is crafted from wood and comes with a strip of copper at the roof. It has wooden tunnels underneath with one open end and another closed end. This allows the bees to enjoy maximum protection and comfort within the tunnels. The unit also has a metal hanger on the back that allows you to mount it on a tree, fence, or building. It weighs approximately 2.47 pounds and has dimensions of 6.8 x 8 x 7.8 inches. It is well made and durable, a sure quality for the money. Its overall design is one to reckon with, an excellent visual presentation.Check Price
3. Niteangel Natural Insect Hotel Bee Bug House
This is another great choice for keeping mason bees. It is a 100% natural material bug house or hotel that is not only appealing to the eye but certainly irresistible to the mason bees. Its design is top notch with an aim of naturally keeping check on parasites. The unit is also sturdy and will withstand extreme weather conditions and pest infestation. Nature lovers will find this alluring and a perfect addition to their garden.
The Niteangel Natural Insect Hotel Bee Bug House has a dimension of 7.5 x 2.8 x 8.7 inches and weighs approximately 1.46 pounds. It is made of pine cone, pine wood, and bamboo which are highly resistant to extreme changes in weather and infestation by pests. This bug house attracts a number of insects including: digger wasps, mason bees (of course), green lacewings, lady birds, wild bees, butterflies, and many others. It is well made and features sanded sides and trimmed edges. You also get a booklet that can be used as a guide if you are new to mason beekeeping. As for the price, this unit is surprisingly affordable.Check Price
2. Crown Bees Mason Bee Holes Wood Tray
This is another great choice from that makes an excellent home for mason bees. Sure, it is not as stylish as the other options on this list, but it does it job superbly. It features a reusable 96-hole wood tray that is ideal for mason bees. There are also 13 interlocking holes with side holes to protect from any pest invasion. This unit allows you to greatly boost the productivity of your garden as it is designed to produce about 500 total cocoons from 50-70 nesting females.
The Crown Bees Mason Bee Holes Wood Tray is made from machine crafted northwest alder wood. It provides a natural, insulated habitat with moisture control to prevent moldy cocoons. The front of each tray is lightly burnished with a unique pattern that helps the female mason bee find a suitable nesting hole. Lastly, it comes with a reusable strap for easy opening and closing.
This mason bee habitat weighs 3 pounds and has a dimension of 6 x 6.5 x 6 inches. It is designed to provide maximum protection to the mason bees. The tubes are sturdy and long lasting. It is sure quality for the money.Check Price
1. The Bees Waggle Mason Bee House for Solitary Bees
This is an excellent design mason bee house that is designed to favor the solitary lifestyle of the mason bee. It comes with a bonus viewing window, guide, and wildflower Seeds. This mason bee house is ideal for the adventurous gardener who would love to increase the productivity of his/her garden and while adding beauty.
The Bees Waggle Mason Bee House for Solitary Bees has a 6 inch nester hole larvae tubes that will provide a conducive environment for the mason bees to multiply and thrive. It is perfectly fitting for both male and female bees and will be sufficient through spring to fall. The bonus bee food is a plus for the gardener and it is free from GMO and filler seeds. You will also get an expert guide in the package to enlighten you on how to nurture these fascinating insects. The expertly crafted bee house is made from fir wood that is highly durable and resistant to rotting. The shelter also has an open design that allows you to easily clean the tubes. You can also harvest the live cocoon with ease given this design. It also makes an excellent gift for your insect loving friend or family member.Check Price
How to Set up a Mason Bee House
In this section, we are going look at how to set up a mason bee house, the installation and the proper placement of a mason bee house.
As we’ve seen above, there are many types of mason bee houses available to beekeepers. Indeed, beekeepers and farmers looking at having mason bees around them have a variety of mason bee houses to pick from. The materials used to make these mason bee houses vary by maker and beekeeper preferences. You may make your own mason bee house or buy one that is ready to go (any of the above are a good choice). Popular designs are the cottage style that uses wood and the tear-drop shaped design that utilize bamboo. Some mason beekeepers use paper products of various forms and hardiness to keep mason bees.
Some points to note:
- Mason bees love to make their nests close to each other. Mason bee houses sold to beekeepers take advantage of this behavior. They have various sizes available for purchase.
- Bigger sizes of mason bee houses and nesting supplies mean more mason bees over time. From your starter population, the mason bees will gradually take up the whole nest.
- You may start a new nest once your first mason bee house is full. This is only necessary if you have the space for an additional mason bee house and feel you should be having more mason bees for your needs.
- Large scale mason bee keeping for pollination purposes requires you to have a number of nests to cover larger land areas.
The cottage style mason bee house style gives your mason bee nest superior protection from the weather and allows you to easily place the mason bee house. Beekeepers get more likelihood of colonization with bamboo. Some beekeepers have tried out a blend of the two and got excellent results in keeping mason bees. They use a wooden exterior with a bamboo core. Bamboo is a natural wood for mason bees and they readily take to it.
Having a mason bee house and installing it are the start of an interesting journey for both amateur and professional beekeepers. After acquiring a mason bee house and setting it up, you may wait for mason bees to discover the house by themselves or purchase a starter population. Mason bees are sold in cocoon form. Starting a mason bee nest using mason bee cocoons requires you to place them into the mason bee house and they will hatch in there. The entire nest will mate and lay eggs in your nest. Once mason bees colonize a nest area, they rarely leave.
The rate at which the mason bee population grows is not as large as that of honeybees. This makes mason bee management very important. The average area covered by a mason bee as an active agent in the environment is 100 meters. A single mason bee house can thus hold enough mason bees to cover a wide area. In backyard beekeeping, mason bees will benefit you and your neighbors. They are friendly and are not likely to get you into trouble. Mason bees are known to wander. Those that travel too far may not find their way back to the nest. Lost mason bees may start building a new nest in a new location.
When to Install a Mason Bee House?
A mason bee house takes many shapes and forms. In the wild, mason bee nests occur in a variety of sizes. Commercial mason bee houses use bamboo tubes bundled together to provide a place where the bees can lay eggs. They gather pollen and nectar and seal it up with an egg in a cell. One mason bee may make several such cells in a series within a single tube before seeking out a new location for a nest. Adult mason bees die soon after laying eggs and setting up a nest. The younger generation emerges from the nests to take over.
Where possible, let the morning sun hit your mason bee house. It helps warm up the bees and gets them to start being active early in the day. Bees, including mason bees, are ectothermic. They depend on the environment, and muscle activity to heat up their bodies.
- Beginner beekeepers starting mason beekeeping should have their mason bee house ready for spring. They should also purchase cocoons and have them ready.
- As spring advances and flowers increasingly bloom, place the cocoons in the bee house or mason bee nest you are using. Refrigerated cocoons of mason bees do not require thawing. They will be warmed up by the spring sun and continue development.
Timing is very critical in mason beekeeping. If you miss spring, especially with refrigerated cocoons, your mason bee population may fall. Mason bees need ample resources and time to mate, lay eggs, collect food resources and seal up chambers. If any of these important mason bee life cycle processes are not done properly, the whole nest may fail and produce no offspring the following season. This is a major contributing factor to mason beekeepers preferring to leave the nest within the mason bee house throughout the seasons. The bees follow their natural life patterns through both hot and cold weather. Rearing mason bees and allowing them to follow natural life cycles gives excellent results and increases their population numbers.
Where Should You Place a Mason Bee House?
Houses for mason bees should be a few feet off the ground. Optimally, this is 6-7 feet above the ground. You should also protect your mason bee house from the elements. Beekeepers and farmers with mason bees often choose to locate the mason bee house under the eaves of their garages, sheds or houses. Some mason bee house designs in production have tops that turn into overhangs. These are the Cube Mason Bee house, Slant-roof mason bee house and the Hex Mason bee house. These three mason bee house types can be hung on a fence post or tree.
- Beekeepers who use paper products in their mason bee nests risk losing more in a predator attack.
- Mason beekeepers facing squirrels and other small animals may use a protective layer of chicken wire over their mason bee house. This prevents the animal from pulling tubes and chambers from the nest and eating the contents.
For purposes of providing food for mason bees, beekeepers should place their mason bee houses near plants. Beekeepers do not need to have specific plants to keep mason bees. The bees adapt well to a variety of trees and plants. Native wildflowers that you can incorporate in the area near or around your mason bee house are recommended.
Your mason bee house is best placed with its back towards a flat surface. This seals up one end of the tubes and leaves entrances to one side only. The house should be put in a location where it receives some significant amount of sunshine and warmth. In cold regions, this is best achieved by facing the mason bee house to the south or southwest. In winter, the sun the house gets to keep the bees warm. The location should also not get too hot in the afternoons. In too much heat, mason bees may show reduced output and will prefer to stay away from the nest.
The location you choose during setting up and installing your mason bee house should take into account predators and harvesting. Robins are predators of mason bees. Crows, woodpeckers and starlings can also wreck havoc to your mason bee population. Storing away your mason bees nest can protect it from predators when need be. The early mornings are the most vulnerable time for mason bees. This is the time they are warming up. They also get attacked by these predators while out gathering mud and food resources.
The Basics of Mason Beekeeping
Keeping mason bees in your home, garden or farm requires you to learn some basics of mason beekeeping. You should also read up on the care and management of mason bees. Your mason bee house may get clogged in some places with the passage of time. Mason bees eggs hatch after 10 days. The larvae eat the food around them and then spin a cocoon. Adult mason bees then emerge from this cocoon.
- Some mason bee nest owners change the location of their mason bee houses. Once your mason bees have laid eggs, filled the chambers and plugged them well with mud or clay, they die off. You will notice less activity by adult bees in and around the mason bees nest. This coincides with the end of summer.
- The mason bee eggs hatch and continue the life cycle in the mud plugged mass of the nest. Production of mason bee cocoons requires you to break apart the nest once cocoons have formed. You may explore this practice with your mason bees for cocoon sales or garden and farm pollination. The practice of taking apart the nest and cleaning them keeps your nest free of mites. Such mites eat the mason bees as they are developing in the cocoons.
- Mason bee cocoons attacked by mites not produce an adult mason bee. After breaking up the nest, viable cocoons float to the surface of water while dead cocoons sink. This is how you know which cocoons to keep and which to discard. You may lightly clean cocoons that have mites on them.
Mites in mason bees are transmitted from one bee to the next. This happens during contact in the nest and during mating. The mites may infest your nest and remain for a long time reducing the yield of the nest. Various methods of controlling mason bee mites are available to beekeepers. They help prevent infestation and clear them when they happen. The best method of control is cleaning the cocoons if you note infestation. Stacked nesting houses and mason bee nesting blocks make the collection of mason bee cocoons more effective and easier for you to carry out.
Mason bees love narrow spaces such as in naturally occurring cracks, gaps and cavities. They also use holes made in wood by wood-boring insects alongside hollow stems. In their reproductive and life cycle, male mason bees see the world before their female peers. They emerge from the nests earlier and stay near the nest waiting for females to emerge. The female mason bees then mate with adult males that die soon after. Mason bees are solitary. They are not aggressive but will sting when wet, trapped or squeezed. Male mason bees do not have stingers. Additionally, the stinger of the female mason bee is not barbed.
Once you have set up your mason bee house, do not move it again or change tube arrangement. Mason bees have a hard time with perfect alignments. This is unlike honeybees that find it easy to find their way around perfect alignments. Some mason bee houses use an imperfect arrangement and alignment of mason bee nesting tubes. This makes it easy for individual mason bees to find their tubes and holes. A 3D setup of the mason bee tubes in your nest is a great way to assist mason bees in their navigation around the nest.
A Final Word
Mason bees are known for their beneficial work of pollinating plants and flowers. They are also easy to tame and not aggressive as the honey bee. The best mason bee houses will make it possible for you to attract and keep these beneficial bees in your garden or backyard.
Mason beekeeping is an engaging and rewarding activity for beekeepers. Farmers and gardeners looking to have better pollination also love mason bees. Use this guide on how to set up a mason bee house to enjoy the benefits of having your own mason bee population. Mason bees can also be turned into an income source as the population grows bigger. You will sell cocoons or nests once you have reached the mason bee numbers you desire.
Do you own any of the mason bee houses on this list? Which mason bee house(s) do you think should be added to this list? Leave a comment below and let us know.