Mason bee houses! You can definitely make a difference in your native bee populations when you make or buy one of these little structures. Osmia, the genus name of these mason bees, has about 150 different species in North American–27 of those are east of the Mississippi River. Naturally, they nest in hollow stems or crevices between stones. You humans are building more stone walls these days, but you tend to clean up your yards too much, or the plants that are popular aren’t hollow.
If you have hollow-stemmed plants, leave the stalks in a corner of your garden.
If not, construct something like any of these. You humans are good with searching for directions. We squirrels were a bit appalled to discover the simple house of bamboo tubes had been placed on one of our favorite fences. It gets the morning sun that we like to bask in. That began to attract bees right away.
Our fears were short-lived. The bees come to the tubes, duck in, do their business and fly off again. They aren’t interested in squirrels or people. Each tube is an egg-laying site. The different bees like different sizes, but we can’t seem to tell them apart. In their strong jaws, they collect mud or wet soil to pack between the eggs they lay to divide up the tube. First they go head in.
Then they come out and turn around and back into the tube.
Hickory figured out that’s when the egg-laying is taking place. It’s not on every trip, because the pieces mud that they can carry are small. See, there are a couple they dropped on the flat lip of the wood.
Needless to say, it’s been entertaining having them as neighbors. Invite the mason bees to your yard!