The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Vacancies and residents in our pollinator homes

Native bee nestsLast winter, I played around with making nest sites to attract native pollinators.  I figured there wasn't really much need since we have plenty of habitat just a stone's throw away in the woods, but I was curious to see if anyone would move in anyhow.  Sure enough, several native bees took advantage of the in-garden accomodations!

But first, I should tell you what didn't work.  The insects ignored my large and small nest blocks, which I figure is probably my own fault.  The books recommend drilling the holes with a very sharp bit, and I didn't have one Improperly made bee neston hand, so the interiors of the potential nest chambers were full of burrs of wood.  Meanwhile, I put all three of my experimental nest blocks in exposed locations, meaning that rain could potentially drip in, which probably also made the cavities less enticing.

On the other hand, my stem bundles saw a lot of activity.  You can tell if a native bee has moved into a nest because you'll notice dried mud plugging the end of the cavity, perhaps with a round hole in the mud if the inhabitants have already grown up and flown away.  The photo below illustrates the difference between used, unused, and still occupied stems, all in the same bundle.

Bee stem bundle

Since only about a third of my stem bundles were used, I got a good idea of which sites the insects preferred.  Exposure to the elements kept bees away from all except one stem in the peach tree hotel, but many more of the ones under the awning of the wood stove roof showed signs of use.  Bamboo seemed to be preferable to drilled-out elderberry twigs, probably again because my drill bit wasn't sharp enough to provide an interior as smooth as the natural bamboo walls.  It's also possible that the bees liked the more solid ends created by the bamboo stem joints compared to the twigs that I blocked off with mud.

I'd be curious to hear from readers who have experimented with building nest habitat for native pollinators.  What worked and didn't work for you?

We'll have new chicks in a couple of weeks and will start them on our chicken waterer from day 1 to prevent coccidiosis and drowning.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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