Thursday, April 09, 2009

You're never too old to learn something new.

Some people have a natural talent for carpentry. I'm not one of them. I went to the hands-on group activity day (that's its official name) at the community garden. So now I know what a mason bee house is. It's a house for mason bees (duh!), and mason bees are little blue-black coloured bees that look almost like flies. They don't sting, and they're little pollinating fiends, it seems.

I also know that I'm pretty hopeless at drilling 7/16"holes in 4x4s and nailing shingle roofs onto them. I managed somehow, but my creation is not a thing of beauty. All I can hope is that the mason bee larvae that I brought home in a little paper tube aren't the picky type. It turned out that I'm much better at making the little paper tubes. That involves taking a small sheet of stationery and rolling it around a dowel (3/8", I think, or maybe 5/16" - I must ask about that), securing it with a bit of Scotch tape, and flattening one end to close it.
Having done that, you push the tube, flattened end first, into one of the holes you've inexpertly driven into the 4x4. Repeat until all the holes have tubes in them, except the one hole that you inadvertently drove a nail into when you were putting the roof on. That hole, you plug with a twig that you found on the ground after a good bit of searching for a twig that's just under 7/16" in diameter. You don't want wasps or whatever taking up residence in the vacant apartment.

By the way, the photo of a mason bee house that I've posted looks nothing like the one that I made. Actually, I went hunting online for photos to use for my demonstration, and I found lots of them - some were advertised as Art Deco. One looked like a very large fig. Most of them were rather pretty. Mine looks like a kindergarten art project.

The idea behind the paper tubes is that you can leave them there through the whole growing season and over the winter. Then, in the Spring, you can take out the paper tubes, which will be full of larvae, and put them into a nearby shoebox (or something similar), with one hole drilled in it. As the new bees hatch, they will leave the shoebox, go out into the world, then return and take up residence in the nice clean new tubes you've inserted in your mason bee house. It saves having to clean out the holes. The paper is like a little Swiffer sweeper. They're messy little things, those bees.

Mason bees are used to pollinate fruit trees. One of my next-door neighbours has a peach tree, and the other has a cherry tree, so there should be plenty to keep my bees busy.


Debbie said...

Now don't sell yourself short. I bet the one you made is just fine! Good for you.

Sandra Leigh said...

Thanks for the vote of confidence, Debbie. Someday, I'll take a picture of my beehouse, just for a giggle.

John Hayes said...

Hey, the cool thing is you made it & I bet it will work, which are the two main points. I'm going to forward this to Eberle, who's really into bees. Very cool project-- I've heard of bat houses & have meant to build one for years, but I never heard of mason bee houses.

Sandra Leigh said...

John, I'm glad you found the information useful. For anybody with the slightest bit of manual dexterity, building the bee house is a simple matter, so I'm sure you and Eberle will do fine.

Friends came over for dinner last night, saw the bee house sitting out on the deck, and knew right away what it was (I guess it's not all that bad!). They said to be sure to put it right up in the eaves. The idea is to try to keep it from getting rained on.

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