When you think of bees, honeybees and bumble bees likely come to mind. You see them buzzing around flower patches gathering nectar to make honey. However, there are almost 20,000 known species of bees in the world. In Minnesota, there are close to 400 different species. Honeybees and bumblebees make up less than two percent of the bee population. The remaining 98 percent are known as wild or solitary bees. These independent, solitary bees pollinate garden plants, ornamentals, and wildflowers.
Solitary (Wild) Bee Houses
Bees need shelter to nest. While many bees nest underground, 30 to 40 percent of bees use hollow plant stems or holes in wood to build their nests. These cavity nesting bees lay their eggs in small sealed cells where the young bee can complete their life cycle into adulthood. Solitary bee house help extend the habitat of wild bees so they can continue to thrive. These simple structures can be built out of natural materials that are easy to find.
Bundle of sticks – Use hollow sticks or reeds, bundle them and place them where bees can find them. Sticks can be tied with wire or placed inside an open-ended container such as PVC pipe to protect the nest from the sun and rain. Nests should be replaced every couple years so they remain clean and accessible to bees.
Wood Blocks – Holes are drilled into a wood block to provide nesting tunnels. To ensure that the tunnels stay clean, easily-replaceable paper straws or rolled paper are inserted into the drilled holes. Wood should not be treated or insect-repellent.
Where to Place Bee Houses
Bee houses should be placed or hung three to four feet above the ground in locations such as weedy fields, abandoned lots, and recently cleared trees. Flowers should be plentiful near the location during spring, summer, and fall. Bees will emerge from the bees houses in the spring to begin pollination.