Build an insect house

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Small holes in wood appeal to female solitary bees who lay their eggs in them. (Magne Flaten / Wiki; cc by-sa 2.0)

The insects in our yards perform important work all summer long by helping to pollinate plants and control pest insects. An insect house rewards these beneficial helpers by offering them extra places for hiding, laying eggs and overwintering.

Building an insect house can be as simple as drilling a series of holes 1 to 2 inches deep into a length of wood (take care not to drill completely through). Place it where you can observe the insect activity. It won’t be long before you’ll be hanging a “No Vacancy” sign on it! Be sure to hang it at a slight downward tilt so rainwater and snow can’t fill the openings and drown the insects.

 

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(WW)

This insect house is a 4 inches x 4 inches piece of untreated lumber. You can cut one to whatever length you prefer. Drill into one side of it a series of 2 to 3-inches-deep holes, ranging in diameter from 1/8- to 3/8-inch, plus a few 1/2-inch holes. You can give the house a special look by adding a roof. Hang it, slightly slanted downward, in a shady or partly shady location with an unobstructed flight path. A fence post, deck post, tree trunk or other structure will give it solid support.

Another way to create an insect house is with bamboo. Cut a length of bamboo into 10 or more pieces, then bundle them together with twine or wire. Strap the bundle horizontally to a tree branch or other spot that suits you.

Don’t want to bother with cutting lumber or bamboo? It’s simple, just gather a large handful of twigs and bundle them together. This won’t provide insects with shelter from rain and snow, but they’ll still find a use for it.

(Dave Hatchpole / Flickr; CC BY 2.0)

(Dave Hatchpole / Flickr; cc by 2.0)

You’re limited only by your imagination. The grand insect hotel at the left is in a garden. The frame is constructed of shipping palettes made of untreated wood and 4 x 4 untreated wood blocks; openings are stuffed with yard debris and ceramics. Truly a hotel for countless insects.

Build a mason bee house
Not all bees live communally in hives, as honeybees do. Many are solitary and live alone. Depending on the species, some dig tunnels for underground nests, others live in existing cavities and some create one. Mason bees are species of bees that will happily take up lodging in an insect house.

Mason bee house. (Red58bill / Wiki; CC BY 3.0)

No vacancies in this mason bee hotel! (Red58bill / Wiki; cc by 3.0)

For a simple mason bee house, drill a series of 5/16-inch holes in a block of wood. Drill the holes 3 or more inches deep, but not all the way through. Hang the house facing south and tilted slightly downward so that rainwater can’t enter. If birds become a problem, try covering the holes with chicken wire. Mason bees aren’t aggressive and won’t sting even when handled, unless you squeeze them.

 Some mason bees superficially resemble flies or honeybees.
The Red Mason Bee resembles a honeybee. (Orangeaurochs / Wiki; cc by 2.0)

The Red Mason Bee resembles a honeybee. (Orangeaurochs / Wiki; cc by 2.0)

Some mason bees, like this one, are often mistaken for flies. (WW)

This mason bee can be mistaken for a fly. (WW)

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