mason bee homes (which is best)

lostman(z7a/b GA)March 18, 2005

I have been looking around on the web for info on mason bees.

I ordered some from knox cellers to get me started, but I now see there are aot of options has far as housing for the bees.

There are straws, reeds, blocks and binders. Does anyone like one style better than the other?


Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Hi Rob--I only have experience with the tubes inside the cans. I really like this system. If you buy the extra tubes/straws, you can use any appropriate can from the grocery store. I build wooden boxes to house two cans each. Each can holds about 75-80 tubes, if I remember correctly. You can buy the blocks or drill your own but I still recommend using the straws; easy to clean, keeps disease under control.
Happy Gardening......................Tom

    Bookmark   March 18, 2005 at 8:20PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
hemnancy(z8 PNW)

Do the spaces between the cardboard tubes allow the parasitic wasp enough room to get in? Do you refrigerate your bees in winter and when do you take them out? How do you know when to pull out the old paper straw liners and put new ones in? I saw some empty tubes but some are still full of bees. Are the bees that are still in the tubes OK? How long does it take them all to leave? Lots of questions.:-) TIA

    Bookmark   April 14, 2005 at 8:24PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Hi TIA-I'm no expert, but here goes: First of all, it shouldn't be a problem if the wasps get between the "cardboard" tubes, because I don't think they can penetrate the cardboard. I don't think they can get between anyway.
I keep my bees in an unheated outside shed in the winter. If your winters are mild, I would keep them in the frig.
You set them out a week or two before your fruit trees bloom.
In the fall you pull out the old paper liners and discard them. You also take out the new full tubes, put them back in a can, and put new paper liners in those cardboard tubes.
The full tubes you still have hopefully have bees that have not emerged yet. If there is a dead one in the front, the rest will die because they can't get out. I would give them a good two weeks to fully emerge.
That's my bets shot! Good luck and happy gardening!!

    Bookmark   April 15, 2005 at 1:09AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
jmacak(Z8 WA)

We have been raising Mason bees in our backyard for years. Here are some experiences and opinions on housing.

First, some general info: We hang our nests about 6 feet below the eaves of an exposed west wall of our brick house. This location works best for us and the bees. When nesting activity ceases we attach wire mesh in front of the houses to prevent hungry flickers from dining.

We started with the wooden nesting blocks but found that the bees were not too interested in them. The next year we hung a nesting block right next to the Knox Cellars tube and liner can homes. The tube and liner homes were completely filled, yet the blocks were just filled about 10%. After that year we no longer used the wooden blocks.

For years we were very successful with the tube/liner homes. We also had very little die back or mite issues. Then I got a job at a nursery that carried the Beediverse plastic Quicklock nests. I bought several racks of trays in early 2006. We hung a house with these right next to our ever growing collection of tube/liner nests.

The Quicklock nests were filled last, and to a capacity of about 50%. The tube nests were completely filled. When we removed and cleaned the cocoons (2006 winter) we noticed that the death rate in the tubes were the usual 5%. However, the death rate in the Quicklock nests were 30-40%.

In Feb 2007, I spoke to the Beediverse people at the NW Flower and Garden show and reported my experiences. I was pretty alarmed at the amount of death. The BD gal speculated that perhaps the plastic tray method held more moisture which may have increased fungal problems.

In 2007 we tried again with tube nests side by side with the Quicklock trays. Nearly all of the 400 tubes were filled with cocoons. The Quicklock trays were filled to about 20%. Upon removing and cleaning the cocoons, this is what we discovered: In the tube/liner nests, we saw very few mites, no parasitic wasps, and had about 5% death rate. In the Quicklock trays we saw 40% death rate, no mites, but many, many holes in the sides of cocoons. When we opened these cocoons, they were filled with tiny, dead parasitic wasps.

In conclusion, we are no longer going to use the plastic trays. I really do not know if there is a moisture/fungal problem, or some chemical offgassing from the plastic. The presence of parasitic wasps in this nest is puzzling. From now on, we will only raise our little friends in the tube/liner nests.

I would love to hear any more experiences.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2008 at 9:15PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

jmacak - Thanks for posting the results of your tests. Could you elaborate on how you overwinter your cocoons?

    Bookmark   February 26, 2008 at 5:57PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I wish I had read your post before making my purchases.
We just received some of the BeeDiverse plastic stacking trays last week and I set some up inside a wooden box with the cardboard tubing.

I've ordered another nesting method, but it hasn't arrived yet. I've seen lots of the busy little bees working our fruit trees and figured I'd encourage them to stay and multiply.

We're in Oklahoma and there have been very few honeybees the last two years. Prior years, our yard would be full of them when the fruit trees bloom.
The peach trees, plum trees and pear trees are all pretty much done blooming now, but the apple trees are in bloom.

Thank for your post regarding your experiences. I think I'll invest in the canned tubes before next year.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2008 at 5:12PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

This nesting season is my first for using the plastic locking trays. I was very surprised to see numerous cells with considerable fungus and very few cocoons overall. Compare this to the previous 3 seasons using the wooden binder-board wood trays and again this fall, I had the same number of cocoons as in years past and NO fungus in any cell. Both types of trays, plastic and wood were in same shelter structure this spring, just inches apart free from rain/moisture, so I have to assume this fungus is a result of inability to "breath" naturally? I won't be using the plastic trays next year. Any comments or ideas welcomed.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2008 at 4:56PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Hello to everyone from Vancouver Canada; this is my first posting.
I have a good working knowledge of mason bee and have been at it for the last ten years
I too have had a bad experience this year with the plastic Locking Trays, very few channels were filled compare with my others wooden blocks. The cocoons number and quality was very low, a lot dead one and some although cupped, inside were completely empty. I have also tried to line some of them with a white paper liner available for the purpose and that compound the problem; the mould was so bed that I and-up to throw every thing away. I find that the paper in use to make up these liners is too absorbent and hold too much moisture for our climate of the Pacific Northwest. For my wooden blocks I make my own liners with 60-lb brown packaging paper with good results.
On JMACAK posting of feb.25-08 claim that the parasitic wasps donÂt pierce throw the tube and liner. Any body else can confirm that? From a good source I herd that they still do

    Bookmark   December 31, 2008 at 2:34AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
kiddo_1(NE OH 5)

Hello and welcome to the forum, ilovebee.

IÂm also a newbie to this forum and while I myself do not Âraise any type of bee, this past summer IÂve turned my property into a bee and pollinator sanctuary, a place where feral honeybees, solitary bees and other pollinators can find forage, medicinal plants and, in some cases, refuge.

I had planned to set up some mason bee homes this coming spring to provide nests for those mason bees (as described in my blog - link below) hereabouts that might need them, but now IÂm wondering. After reading this thread it sounds like I couldnÂt just leave a populated nest out to the elements over next winter (NE Ohio)? And yet in the wild IÂm sure that must be what happens. Perhaps those nests in the wild are more insulated?

I would love to learn more how I can support all types of bees and pollinators without *raising* them. The goal of my sanctuary is to lend support for as many types of pollinators as I can. What with rampant Âdevelopment of fields and the growing sterile urban landscape there is such negative impact on these important insects. Any advice you could offer would really be appreciated!
P.S. Happy New Year!

Here is a link that might be useful: Melissa Majora gardens

    Bookmark   December 31, 2008 at 9:35AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

The info re plastic houses was most helpful as I am in need of additional houses.
An interesting internet article: 'Home Made Mason Bee Paper Liners That Work - Randy Person' suggested rolling your own using Reynolds Parchment Paper used for cooking.
My concern is when can you remove cocoons from papers, etc and not harm them? It was my understanding that the egg is placed on top of pollen and shouldn't be disturbed.
Another suggestion: Put houses under a box with one hole so they can exit upon hatching and have new, clean houses outside and the old can then be cleaned out, ready to go for next year.
Suggestions, please.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2009 at 5:08PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Hi Joan
The cocoons are removed from the paper liners late in fall. October or November when the bees are dormant and the metamorphose is complete. Open-up a cocoon: and you will find an adult dormant bee inside waiting for spring to start over the new cycle.
I donÂt know which type of houses that you have, there are some that require the paper liner and there are others that donÂt. I do prefer the one with the liner as they are easier to clean, and cleaning is a must every year if you want to minimize the mite infestation and have a healthy colony. I have try to roll-up the white parchment paper according to Randy Person, and I found that there-is a resistance on the part of the bee to enter the white liner, and given the choice they will use the brown liner first. Of the few bee that fill the white parchment paper liner, the cocoons turn out of very good quality clean and dry. I make all my liners by using 60 lb. Craft paper.
I hope this will help.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2009 at 11:29PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I'm in my second year of keeping mason bees in the pacific northwest, and here's what I've observed so far . . .

For the first year I used the locking plastic trays, in the little "bee house" that I bought from beediverse. I placed it where it would get about two hours of morning sunlight, and shade for the rest of the day. It worked well for me and I'm using it again this year. I found it easy to retrieve and clean the bees in the fall. Ten bees multiplied to about forty...of which about 75% survived. This year I'm trying three different styles of houses, side-by-side, to see what works best.

1) The first is a simple redwood block with holes drilled into it...and plastic straws (from Dairy Queen) inserted into the holes. This is by far the earliest and most popular option with the bees, though I worry that I will run into problems because the plastic straws aren't breatheable. This weekend I am going to replace the emtpy plastic ones with paper ones.

2) The plastic-locking-tray bee house is also filling up rapidly. It's about 30% full now with one monthy of bee activity. The bees seem to prefer the yellow trays over the blue ones.

3) I also bought one of the PVC tube houses that are a simple plastic PVC pipe packed full of cardboard straws, all open on one side and closed on the other. So far the bees are ignoring that one completely but perhaps that will change as the season goes on and the other two houses fill up.

Location: Some local people here in Seattle advised me to move the bees to a sunny location, so they are now on a south facing wall of my house, where they get sun from about 10am-4pm. There is much more activity this year and they appear to like the heat and sunshine.

Straws: Whatever container you use, definitely insert straws of some kind if you want to remove and clean the coccoons in the fall. It's easy to slip a paper straw into a drilled hole...and then pull it out again in the fall, leaving a clean nest block for re-use next year.

The bee cocoons are easy to remove from the trays, but I didn't understand how to get the bees out of the straws until someone showed me how. You can slit the plastic straws lengthwise with a razor blade (not liking that idea) and if you use paper or card board straws, you just pry up a corner of paper and unfurl the tube, just like you would with a pop-open package of Pillsbury biscuits :-)

After cleaning mine, I kept them from September through March in small plastic tupperare containers in the back of the fridge. I'd open them from time to time to wave in fresh air but otherwise ignored them. I set some out in "late winter" in February, some out in March, and some out in early April....but I noticed there wasn't any activity until cherry trees started flowering. Next year I'll ignore the calendar and just put them out right before the cherries start to blossom.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2009 at 3:34PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I would never consider using plastic tubes or grooves. But since I have to personal experience with that I can't say how well it works.
I started off using holes drilled in various wood materials. While this does work, it isn't a very good method. Despite the sharpest wood-drilling bits I used, and despite how many times I run it back and forth to ream out the holes, there are still many wood fibers laying flat against the sides of the holes. When exposed to the outdoor weather, these fibers loosen up and altogether make a miserable obstacle for the bees.
The Knox Cellars tubes, with or without liners, do seem to work better. I'm convinced that the wood would work just as well if the holes were smooth and free of splinters, burs, and fibers.
In my experience, the nests that most discriminating bees prefer is the bamboo tube. These are reusable and require no liner, but require some work to clean out after each season. They also have to be cut to length, and pre-drilled to 5/16 inch. The preferred choice for those with time on their hands. You can see these at the rightmost in the picture below.

I like to have interesting-looking Mason Bee setups. That's why I've made these nice cedar houses, some with copper tops. They're alot of fun. But, once built, they are also extremely useful, long-lived and practical. And I know the little guys appreciate the extra effort and curb appeal.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2009 at 6:31PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
gyozu(7 Winston-Salem, NC)

I have been using the drilled wood blocks using 4" x 6" x 6" blocks of fir.

Each has 24 holes drilled through the 6" dimension.

I have tried both the parchment paper and cut up brown paper grocery bags.

the first year using parchment paper I had about 11 out of 24 holes filed. I got the block out late May so it was toward the end of the season. The blocks fit in a wood box that is hanging about 8' off the ground facing East. The box was removed when bees stopped using it and was left on a screen porch till Feb '09. Took the tubes out, unrolled them, discarded any cocoons that had damage like holes. I placed the cocoons in a 1/2 gallon wax paper soy milk jug with an exit hole on one end and tied on top of the Bee block holder. Out of 98 cocoons 95 had something hatch out.

This year I put out two blocks with a mix of handrolled parchment and brown paper tubes. All 48 holes were filled by bees this year and probably could have filled a good part of a third block so, I will try 4 blocks next year.

So far the bored wood block with paper tubes is working well for me.

Things I also want to try.
Scorch the front of the blocks and wirebrush a little to provide a bit rougher surface for the bees to land against. Color might also be more attractive, but no sure if tha is really true.

Try some commercial straws. Cutting, rolling and stuffing 96 tubes is a time consuming chore.

Does anyone have building instructions for other solitary bees?

    Bookmark   May 31, 2009 at 8:06PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Have you made the observation, which tubes filled-up first? The one made with parchment paper or the one made with the brown paper? Buying the commercial paper tubes will save you some time; but it will take a lot longer to retrieve the cocoons at the end of the season. The commercial tubes are glued together and they must be cut lengthwise to remove the cocoons. That will take some precision to avoid cutting into the cocoons.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2009 at 8:52PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Melissa_in_NE(05 NE)

I built a small wooden cage, covered the front with chicken wire and placed it facing east. I started with one can about 5 inches across and now have 3.
I used knox cellars tubes and white paper liners. I tried putting them in the fridge the first year and was not pleased with the results. I now leave them outside all year round and have good results. The bees appear fat and healthy. I ran out of brown tubes this year and used a can of just the white liners. I noticed that the bees went to the brown tubes 99% of the time. I have had my bees (I started with 20) for 4 years and I estimate I have 300 or so now. I will make a new house this winter to place in a different part of our orchard.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2009 at 11:19AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo


Do you have any problem with the parasitic wasps? Although the bees like them, I had to stop using those cans with the cardboard tubes, because a lot of cocoons were puncture by the wasps. I am still using the brown liner by inserting them into wood predrilled 6"x 3/8" and the problem was solved. I started 10 years ago with 6 cocoons now I have about 7 to 8 thousands.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2009 at 12:39AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I've tried about every system out there over the past 25 years and came to the conclusion early on to copy Karl Krombein's basic design - stacked, wooden trays with 5/16" (6-7mm) channels, with a clear cover taped on all edges on top. It originated for my research, but has turned into a profession as well as an educational tool, besides for my want of pollinators in my garden. If you go to my Youtube video, part 1, and part 2, you'll see what I mean. It might be easier to just go to Youtube and put in "How To Clean Orchard Mason Bees Using Sand", and you'll get there. Hopefully the lightbulb will go on about design, cocoon extraction and cleaning. I correspond with folks through that site too.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2010 at 6:12PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Do you simply dump the pupa/cocoons in the plastic container and cover with no additional treatment or liner?

    Bookmark   October 25, 2010 at 1:41AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Dan, pretty much yes.

I put a dry paper towel in a plastic kitchen container, dump the cocoons in, seal it up, and stick it in the bottom back corner of my kitchen fridge from November through March.

Every two months or so I open up the countainers and wave in some fresh air and fret about humidity and feel guilty about neglect, but that's it. :-)

    Bookmark   October 31, 2010 at 3:15PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I just read through this 3 year forum. It's nice to see great questions and answers.

I work with mason bees on the commercial side. A couple of points.
- unless you have chalkbrood, there really is no point to washing your mason bees. If you have harvested your cocoons and separated out the cocoons from the mites/mud/pollen balls, that's all that is needed. Any residual mite on the cocoons doesn't harm anything. The first foraging trip to flowers has mites on the mason bee again. If you have chalkbrood, wash with bleach. Our website has great pictures on pests and processes. Look at for more information.

- There are a variety of straws/inserts/reeds to be found on the internet. We have a new one out, the 'EasyTear' that doesn't need an insert, you can tell if it's used by a mason bee, and tears open easily. Reeds are also a good option as well.

Lastly, a few questions asked about other mason bees beyond the Blue Orchard Bee. We're helping people be successful with the Japanese Orchard Bee in the east coast and are on the lookout to help others find/manage more.

Osmia Algaia (Berry bee) in Oregon is a good one, and there are a few other Blueberry bees found. We're looking to help understand location, crops that can be supported, and nesting practices for each bee.

Native bees are vital to pollination. Continue to give your bees away to your friends and help them succeed!

Dave Hunter, Owner
Crown Bees

Here is a link that might be useful: Crown Bees

    Bookmark   November 20, 2010 at 1:00PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Has anyone created re-usable wooden block houses without a liner? It seems it would breathe and no space in between. My husband's thinking about trying it but would like to know if someone else has and experienced problems.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2013 at 7:24PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
gyozu(7 Winston-Salem, NC)


Sanitation reasons and ease of cleaning are the reasons for using replaceable liners. I have started using boards that are 11" deep with a bunch (6) 5/16" square channels routed in them. No liners are used and these are stacked and clamped together. It is a pain to get the cocoons out of, but I've had fair yields. Believe there are several videos of something similar over at YouTube. I've used blocks with parchment paper liners, but a couple of hundred tubes is the limit of my patience when turning the trap blocks around in the spring. I like the parchment paper tubes.

Maybe someone could make something out of a fired ceramic that would be porous but would stand up to a rigorous cleaning.

One year I made a single use nest block out of unfired local red clay. Mixed up a bunch of clay in water and filtered out debris through a window screen. Poured that slurry into an 8x8x8" box that I taped up from 1" foam board. Let it settle to pour off the standing water. After a while (don't remember how long) it sort of jelled up to where I could poke holes in it with a dowel. Let it dry slowly over several weeks and put it out inside a 5 gal bucket on its side for weather protection. Local solitary bees (not orchard due to hole size and time of year) used a few of the holes. Something like that might work with a little fine tuning.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2013 at 6:02PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
"How Your Bee-Friendly Garden May Actually Be Killing Bees" Last...
Is this little thing really a bee?
This looks like a honey bee and wallows around in pollen...
Is this a mining bee?
East central Illinois. Mid-August on a cone flower...
jim_1 Zone 5B Illinois
Here's My First Mason Bee Hive
So other than needing more tubes to fill it is there...
first year bee keeping-Nevada
is there any one out there from my area first year...
Sponsored Products
Nourison Runner: Modesto Shades Multicolor 2' 2" x 7' 3"
$36.97 | Home Depot
Venezia 8-Light Bronze Double Multi Light Pendant
Lamps Plus
Cadena Rectangular Suspension
Armen Living Rio 4 Door Buffet - Gray & White - LCRIBUWHGR
$780.00 | Hayneedle
Clay One-Light 22.5-Inch Table Lamp
$85.31 | Bellacor
Everest Ardebil/ Crimson Power-loomed Area Rug (5'3 x 5'3)
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™