How to Make a Mason Bee House

Updated on November 27, 2017
Anthony Altorenna profile image

I like spending time in the garden, around the house, in the workshop, and fishing. Many of the projects in my articles are originals.

Mason Bee House
Mason Bee House | Source

Mason Bees Are Native Pollinators!

Making a mason bee house is a simple woodworking project that takes just a few minutes to build, and making a bee house is a great project for using a few pieces of salvaged lumber and scrap wood. A mason bee house is also a fun project to make with kids, especially after they can watch the bees build their nest in a project that they made themselves.

Mason mees are natural pollinators. They are also solitary and unlike the honey bee, mason bees do not live in colonies. Instead, the females do all of the work themselves, seeking out natural cracks and crevices to lay their eggs such as hollow twigs and the abandoned holes bored out by beetles.

Female mason bees will readily move into the tunnels bored into this little bee house to lay their eggs. Though they do not live in hives, groups of female mason bees nest together, and they don't seem to mind the company from their neighbors. The eggs remain dormant through the fall and winter, and offspring emerge in the spring to pollinate plants.

Mason Bee House Plans

The Cutting List

Things You Need:

  • 4" x 4" x 14" Pine Post (or larger)
  • 5/16" Drill Bit
  • 6" x 6" x 3/4" thick Pine or Hardwood board

The mason bee house is a simple structure made from a 4x4 pine post. The exact size and dimensions of the the bee house are not important, so use whatever pieces of recycled lumber or scrap wood are available. If you do not have a chunky post, simply laminate a few pine boards together. The wider the boards, the deeper you can drill the holes for the nesting tunnels. I used a piece of weathered pine post that is about 14" long. Do not use cedar or redwood, which is naturally insect-resistant and may discourage mason bees from setting up residence.

The top of the pine post is cut at a 22-1/2 degree angle to form a sloped roof to shed the rain. My power miter box is not large enough to cut all of the way through the post, so I finished the cut with a hand saw.

The 6" x 6" roof was cut from a piece of 3/4" thick cherry, recycled from an old shelf unit that was destined for the landfill. The back edge is cut at the same 22-1/2 degree angle to match the slope of the roof.

Mason Bee House Plans
Mason Bee House Plans | Source

Lay Out the Holes

For a uniform pattern and a neat appearance, take a few minutes to lay out the locations of the holes before drilling. I started by measuring to find the middle of the front side of the post (the shortest side after the sloped bevel cut for the roof), and then drawing a center line down the length of the pine board. Marking the center at both the top and the bottom helped ensure that the line is placed down the center of the post.

Next, I measured 3/4" in from each side, again marking both the top and bottom of the post, and then drawing another set of lines for the other two rows of holes.

Starting at the top of the post, I measured down 2" and made a mark on the center line to indicate the location for the first row of holes. Using a square, I transferred the first mark to the other two lines, marking three locations for the first row of holes.

Measuring down 1" from the first row, I repeated the process to mark the locations for each of the holes in the second row. This process continued until I reached the last row, which is about 1-1/2" up from the bottom of the post.

The mason bees are not fussy about the patterns for the holes, and the lay out lines are purely for visual appeal. Rather than measuring and marking each hole location, you could use a small piece of peg board (with evenly spaced holes) as a template for evenly spacing and marking the locations for the holes.

Mason Bee House Plans
Mason Bee House Plans | Source

Drilling Out the Holes

A drill press makes quick work of drilling out the 24 holes in this version of the Mason Bee House, but a hand-held drill will work just fine too.

Drill the holes as deep as possible, using a 5/16" diameter drill bit. The female bees prefer laying their eggs in deep tunnels, and all of the holes are at least 3-1/2 deep. Many Mason Bee house plans feature wider (deeper) designs allowing for longer tunnels, and the deeper the depth of the nest box, the better for the Mason Bees.

Use a small piece of sandpaper wrapped around a piece of dowel (or a pencil) to clean up the edges of the freshly drilled holes.

If you have a longer 5/16" drill bit, consider drilling the holes all of the way through the post. Then, cut a "backer board" to fit the back of the post, and attach it to the back of the bee house with a few weather-resistant screws. The removable back section makes it easy to clean out the debris from tunnels after the young Mason Bees leave the nest.

Mason Bee House Plans
Mason Bee House Plans | Source

Hanging Your New Mason Bee House

The roof was cut from a piece of cherry wood that I salvaged from an old shelf unit. Cut into a 6" x 6" square, the roof overhangs the post by 1" on either side, and nearly 2" over the front of the bee house. Four weather-resistant nails hold the roof in place.

Though the bee house was made from salvaged pieces of weathered wood, the finished piece looked better after a quick sanding to soften the sharp edges, smooth out the saw cuts and to round over the corners of the post. A standard picture frame hanger makes it easy to hang the finished bee house.

Hang your new bee house in a sunny location in the garden. I hung one south-facing wall of our garden shed and is ready to host the next generation of mason bees.

Identifying Mason Bees

Blue Orchard Mason Bee
Blue Orchard Mason Bee | Source

There are over 300 different species of Mason Bee. The two of the most common species found in North America are the Blue Orchard Bee and the Horn-Faced Bee, while the Red Mason Bee is common throughout Europe.

Smaller than a honey bee, these little bees live for only six to eight weeks, but can visit and pollinate over 1,000 blooms each day of their short lives.

Mason bees rarely sting, making them welcomed guests to the garden.

Have You Ever Seen A Mason Bee House?

Have You Ever Seen A Mason Bee House?

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Meet a Mason Bee!

Around the Web: Mason Bees

Invite Pollinators Into Your Garden

Keep the flowers blooming! Pollinators include including bees, birds, butterflies, bats, beetles and other animals.

Mason Bee House Plans ~ Pollinator's Garden
Mason Bee House Plans ~ Pollinator's Garden | Source

© 2013 Anthony Altorenna

Will You Put Up a Mason Bee House?

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    • sparkleyfinger profile image

      Lynsey Harte 14 months ago from Glasgow

      This is a great idea. Too many people are scared of bees, so are unlikely to make such a thing. I would like to do this, but my garden is tiny and by boyfriend is terrified of anything black and yellow striped flying around. I have tried to explain that bees are unlikely to sting, but he will still run at even a buzz coming towards him. I might pass this on to my mum as her garden is much bigger, and there are no such phobias in her house. Brilliant hub.

    • qikey1 lm profile image

      qikey1 lm 4 years ago

      Yes! We love bees. Thank you for all the wonderful bee house ideas. We have plenty of scrap wood around. Looks like a great project to do with the kids...:)

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 4 years ago from Canada

      We have fruit trees so like having the bees around but for the past couple years we have had a major wasp problem we have been working on. They have really become a problem in our area over the past few years and are certainly prolific. Difficult to get rid of as they just keep coming back. Hope your summer is going well.

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 4 years ago from Canada

      You certainly are multi-talented. Your home wood crafts that are designed to blend with nature are so very impressive.

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 4 years ago from Colorado

      This is so cool. I wasn't aware of Mason bees or the type of structure they prefer for their eggs. I'm all for bees and want to do my part in helping them. I'd love to build one of these Mason bee houses. Thanks so much for the plans and instructions. Appreciated!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      We have t ho be thinking about taking care of all of our pollinators and it sounds like the Mason Bee does more than their share in their 6 to 8 weeks of life. It was fun to learn about them, I'm sure I've seen some variety of them and wondered what it was and would be happy to welcome them to their new home. The video was cool, more fun to watch them find their own hole since they come out on the run! Very nicely done plans with your special touches and tips along the usual! FB liked for you. :)

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