15 Best Bee Houses to Attract Pollinators

If you want an epic garden, there one sure way to get it. Invite some pollinators into your space. Mason bees are the perfect family-friendly option, and given the right habitat, these prolific pollinators can take your harvest from “meh” to mega.

A bee house ensures they have a place to lay eggs so you can keep your bee population prospering from year to year, plus they make terrific gifts for gardeners.

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Why Have a Bee House?

We all know how important bees are to the world for their absolute pollinating power. But not all bees are created equal. Some like to swarm. Some like to sting. 

Bee houses, unlike bee boxes, are primarily created for mason bees, super pollinators who rarely sting and lead pretty solitary lives. They are, by some reports, 160 times better at the pollination process than honey bees according to Molbaks Garden + Home. 

Because mason bees aren't picky, they move seamlessly from flower to flower which means they're carrying pollen all over your garden. 

How Does a Mason Bee House Work?

Mason bees are hard workers, and they prefer to lay their eggs hollow tubes. Completely different than bee boxes for honey bees,  mason bee houses feature bamboo or wood fiber tubes where the bees lay their eggs.

The Oregon State extension office explains the mason bee life cycle well in this document, but to put it simply, here's what happens:

After each egg is laid, the female bee seals it in place with a mud wall and she might lay five or six eggs in a single tube. She leaves pollen and a nectar ball for the larvae to eat. In a few days, the larvae hatch and spin a cocoon where they pupate into bees.

During cold weather the bees stay in their cocoons but when spring arrives the bees chew through their cocoon and emerge.

How Can I Winter Over My Mason Bees?

The best mason bee houses have tubes that can be easily cleaned out each fall, allowing you to harvest the cocoons and winter over your bees. In spring, you can release them for another successful year in the garden. 

Once you have harvested the cocoons, you might need to inspect and gently clean them say the bee experts at Raintree Nursery, as mites and debris can harm them.

Once they've been cleaned, you can store the cocoons in a mouse-proof container with small breathing holes. And, believe it or not, you can even keep your cocoons in the refrigerator, releasing them just before your fruit trees begin to bloom. 

How Can I Care for My Mason Bee House?

Mason bee nesting tubes need to be gently cleaned in the fall with a light bleach solution to allow for another season of mating and egg laying.

Most bee houses can be brought indoors once the cocoons have been removed, to keep them out of the weather and extend their life.

When you need to, you can also buy replacement tubes for your bee house made from bamboo, wood fiber, and even paper.

Bringing It All Together

There's so much more to the mason bee story that's worth getting to know. Whether you're serious about the garden, or you merely want to create a cool science experiment for your kids, we'd recommend you read Mason Bee Revolution: How the Hardest Working Bee Can Save the World - One Backyard at a Time to learn more about the best ways to see your bees, your backyard, and our entire planet prosper. 

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