Thursday, March 22, 2007

“We're all busy little bees, full of stings, making honey day and night, aren't we honey?” Bette Davis (two-time Academy Award-winning American actress, 1908 - 1989)

This is by way of an addendum to the last post. It’s always good fun to receive a comment on something we’ve posted and Monica, from her Small Meadow Farm in Georgia, USA, is one of our regular readers and comment posters. She said. “Neat bee house. You should do a how too for it.”

Gabrielle has had a “bee in her bonnet” (groans from the audience!) about making one of these for a while and so it was very timely that the latest issue (No.51) of Permaculture Magazine, has an article entitled, “How to Make a House for Solitary Bees”, by Marc Carlton. And we don’t do much around here without consulting Google, where we came up with two useful sites: this one is where we got the picture above from and is packed full of information and this one downloads as a pdf file and has construction details and other info.

In addition to the bumble bees and honey bees there are many species of solitary bees that neither sting (or it’s just the females that sting and then that’s only as painful as a mosquito bite…allegedly!) nor produce honey. They are very good pollinators and with honey bees suffering a reduction in numbers due to mites, gardeners should do what they can to help.

To build one, you need some off-cuts of wood; around 100mm (4inch) deep (real stuff, not wood composite materials like chipboard/ particleboard or MDF) into which you drill holes varying between 2mm (3/32inch) and 10mm (3/8inch) to a depth of around 85mm (3.5inch). Remove all sawdust and splinters, and smooth entrances to holes (with a countersink bit, perhaps) and, if you’re making it out of several bits of wood, mount them together with a roof to keep the worst of the weather off. Bamboo canes work well, but drill them out to remove the internal divisions therein. Gabrielle included some straw to attract earwigs, which eat something that is bad for fruit trees, but she’s not here for the moment and I can’t remember what it is!

In autumn, the boxes should be taken down and stored in a cold dry place to over-winter out of the way of predators, such as woodpeckers. Put them back outside in spring to continue the cycle. This is just a precis to show how simple it is; if you fancy making one, have a look at those links and the magazine article is good too.