Mason bee block
Zach, this is in response to your question about orchard mason bee blocks. Mason bees are supposed to be the premier pollinator, far more efficient than honey bees! I like to reuse the blocks I have made, so this is an attempt to help show you how I have gone about keeping them around.
I take a block of wood about 8 to 11 inches in length and cut the back of it off about a half inch lengthwise (if its a 2x6 of untreated wood). If its a post (4x4) like i have pictured, I cut about 6 inches worth off. then I take that and cut about an inch of that block off, giving me a 5 inch block and a 1 inch matching piece (seen below the roof here).
I then drill holes of 1/4 to 3/8 in. completely through the 5 in. block. I then cut natural parchment paper that I buy from Whole Foods (though there are probably some at the local grocers) to 6 inch lengths and cut that sheet into fourths. This will give you about 2.5 inch x 6 inch strips of paper. I roll those onto a screwdriver or a pencil, depending on how big the holes are in the block.
Here is the paper sticking out the back
Then I fold the parchment paper rolls over in the back, which later serve as a handle to pull the filled tubes out.
Then I screw the back on and often run some duct tape around the back plate so that no parasitoids crawl in and to keep the water out.
From the front this is what the bees see
I then pull the tubes out and put them into a small jewelry box with a pencil sized hole in the side. I tape this to the bottom of the blocks or set the jewelery box close by. The emerging bees will stick around if they have nesting sites, which you will provide with the clean block filled with parchment tubes.
They are really neat to have buzzing about in the spring. I put the blocks out when the flowers on the fruit trees are beginning to open. All of my neighbors have some kind of apple or crab apple, plum, or pear so there is plenty for them to nectar from. They just need the temp to reach around 75 or 80,so I put them where they receive morning sun.
They only live for about 4-6 weeks. Once they are done flying, I take the boxes down, bring them into the basement to complete development. In the fall, you can pull the tabs and get the tubes with the larval cells separated and see the females from the males as the girls are bigger.
I don't have any pictures of these later steps, but hopefully will follow up on that this spring.
For those who are made of money, you can buy cardboard tubes and inserts on Amazon and other internet retailers, but you wouldn't have the fun of making them and thinking about what you have provided them.
I dont know if this helps clear anything up, but hopefully a picture tells a thousand words!
Simply search for mason bee block videos and you will find all kinds of variations of what I have made (and much neater than mine I am sure).
I hope this speaks to your inner carpenter/Builder Bob!