My name is Dr Margriet Dogterom and am the founder and owner of Beediverse. I write this blog for all who love bees and who want to learn more about these wonderful creatures.

Mason bee homes and nest types

Don reports he has had mason bees over the past 20 years.  He has both the brown cornifrons and black lignaria that live in healthy coexistence in the same boxes year after year. “Some years the browns produced more. Some years the blacks prospered better. Seems they offset each others unique vulnerabilities to our fluctuating environment. I never saw browns and blacks mate or show any interest in or aversion to each other. They flew together. Whoever got to the tunnel first took ownership.

The “trapline” was set here in April 2015 included the 15 nesting boxes of about 50 holes each, positioned strategically along muddy creek and native wildflowers over the one mile trace of this flood plane. The 2014 brood I planted did not thrive and have very little action in our 2015 trapline.”

Don asked if I had a theory on why mason bees did not multiply in the two years he set out these nests in this natural area, since bumble bees seem to thrive in the area. Bees need food to thrive, and bumble bees thriving indicates that there is adequate food.    My theory is that mason bees prefer natural nesting sites over man-made nests.  I have seen this is in quite a few sites where it takes 3-4 years  before mason bees begin using man-made nests.  Margriet      don z2  don z4don z3

Rick S from Saltspring Island sent us this interesting picture!   He has mason bees that like to play cribbage. he notes that “It looks like those two that haven’t pegged yet are going to get skunked.”

How neat? Have any of you encountered similar findings?


Although round nesting holes are preferred by mason bee, they will use all kinds of shapes and sizes of holes, including these routered holes.  these nests are created by routering grooves in pieces of wood, which are stacked and thus creating the nesting holes.  colored markers to help mason bees find their nest can easily be done on wood.  some of the ‘unused’ nesting holes are actually used by the bees for their overnight stay.  for this reason it is always best to have more nesting holes then the number of female mason bees that are released.

I’ve had a problem with bees released returning to my nest tubes. Attached are two photos of my boxes. I released about 20 in the setup named “original” and only one bee nested there. I’m going to try the setup named “latest” and was wondering if you think either or both should work? Thanks Norman Z


Hi Norman,  These are beautifuly constructed homes for mason bees.  Both should work.  At some locations there are lots of nesting places for mason bees such as cedar shingles and often mason bees use these over the ones we set up.  The only way that I know to get them to use your nests is over a year or two, increase the number of mason bees that are produced.  I noticed that the ‘Latest’ home is set on a post.  This works fine, but in cool springs, this location would be a lot colder than a site like on a wall and be a lot less attractive than the home on a warm East facing wall.   All these facts make an impact on successful nesting of mason bees.  Sometimes it is difficult to figure out why the population is not building up and it could be as simple as a few bird predators.  Try different locations and homes and slowly build up their numbers.-Margriet

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March 2017
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