Wild bee nests

Wild Bee Nests and Building Wild Bee Houses

Nesting Habitat

Most bees (between 60 and 70%) dig burrows in the ground. These bees prefer dry, sandy soil bare of vegetation, often on hillsides. You can attract ground-nesting bees simply by making sure to leave some spots of exposed, undisturbed soil in your yard.

The other 30-40%, the cavity-nesting bees, require a bit more effort. These bees use hollow plant stems or holes in wood left by wood-boring beetles, instead of digging their own tunnel in the ground. A nesting bee will use mud, leaves, or another material to build walls and divide the tunnel into a linear series of small, sealed cells. Each cell contains a lump of pollen and an egg, which usually takes one year to develop into an adult bee and the cycle can begin anew. You can attract cavity-nesting bees by providing tunnels in a man-made structure called a bee house—like a bird house for bees. Three common types of bee house are stick bundles, wood blocks and observation blocks.

Wild bees are important pollinators of many fruits and wild flowers. The best way to provide nests for native bees is to provide undisturbed areas where they can make their own nests. Some key elements to provide are standing, dead stems, downed logs, brush piles, and most importantly, undisturbed ground (both bare and covered with thatch).

If you would like to observe native bee nesting, you can construct your own nests for cavity nesting bees. Please note that these nests need maintenance otherwise they can cause more harm than good. Learn about wild bee diversity and how to attract them to your garden or farm by providing nesting habitat in this beautiful pamphlet written by Joel Gardner.  Download free pamphlet (.pdf)


Managing Alternative Pollinators: A Handbook for Beekeepers, Growers, and Conservationists

Mader, E.; Spivak, M.; Evans, E.

This handbook is a first-of-its-kind, step-by-step, full-color guide for rearing and managing bumble bees, mason bees, leafcutter bees, and other alternatives to honey bee pollinators. The book features 130+ color photos, 10 chapters, 7 appendices, nest construction details, parasite and disease management guidelines and a sample contract. Includes a bibliography and list of additional resources.

For Beekeepers: Detailed information on each alternative pollinator's biology and susceptibility to disease, pests and chemicals, as well as step-by-step instructions on how to rear and manage alternative pollinators.

For Growers:Guidance for understanding the business of pollination, matching pollinators to crops, and deciding how best to pollinate for successful agricultural production and pollinator protection.

For Conservationists: Easy-to-understand accounts of the honey bee's plight, the business of pollination, and what can be done to protect pollinators and our food systems.

Price: $23.50 Purchase
or download free pdf of book