Because of the design of my house, I have no choice but to place my Mason Bee house facing in a due south orientation.
Is that Ok?
I read that they need to be facing East.
Here's the deal with south-facing houses in Seattle: all our bad weather blows in from the southwest, so the front face of your houses are going to get a lot wetter than if they were facing east. More moisture = more pollen mites, and more wind = more female dispersal (they leave and don't come back.)
On the plus side, the south side gets more sun and bees need warmth to fly. That will keep them active for longer in the day--the longer they are active during the day, the more time they have to make baby bees.
What's a mason bee hobbyist in Seattle to do? Two options:
1) make sure your bee house is as protected as possible, with a generous roof overhang. The more the roof or walls stick out from the face of the tubes, the more protection they will have. If you have room, push the tube entrances waaaaaay to the back of the house. If not, try to fashion additional cover.
2) If we're going to get some really rough weather for a couple of days, take the block down, cover it, and put it in the fridge for a day or so. The bees will be fine with no impact--but try to minimize the time in the fridge and treat the house very, VERY carefully to avoid jostling eggs. (Carry it like you would carry explosive material.) If you cant put it inside, then put some temporary protection over it.
For three years I've kept my houses on the south side and they've been fine. I'm going to try the east side this year too and see if the quality and reproductive rate of the bees improves at all. It's less sun, but completely protected from weather.
In our cold, wet, and windy spring last year, I had 67% of females leave the nest. That's a high rate--probably a lot due to the bad weather. I think everybody had more pollen mites than normal, too. Try to stick with paper or wood tubes that can "breathe" more than plastic or plastic-coated straws. That will help mitigate moisture issues from the rain.
Hope that helps!
Wonderful! Thank you very much! I really appreciate your taking time to answer my questions! You were very helpful!
I had a feeling I may have to customize my bee house a bit to create a longer overhang. Hopefully that will help my success rate.
I was wondering if it might be advisable to place the bee house on the southern part of my porch where you previously suggested, but turn the bee house itself to face East? That way the little openings would be facing towards my house and more shielded from the southern oncoming whether. Or do the openings need to be facing south as well?
The openings should face the direction that the bees will fly up to it. That can be facing out from a wall, or facing sideways along a wall, but the openings shouldn't be pointing -at- the wall. The bees benefit from a clear flight path to fly straight up to their tubes. They'll spend more time gathering pollen and less time navigating a tricky entrance.
See the houses listed on this page? (URL below) Those are pictures of the two orientations that are OK...outward facing and sideways facing. (Crown bees is also a great local Seattle business.)
If you've got sun hitting the openings of the house, that's where the bees will often sit to warm up to fly.
Here is a link that might be useful: Pictures of different houses at Crownbees.com