As Parent'Map's mason bee primer says, "keeping native non-stinging mason bees — even in urban spaces — is a surprisingly easy way to help the environment, and it’s also an inexpensive and educational project for kids." And these hyper-efficient air pollinators will do wonders for your fruit trees, berries and gardens. One way to attract mason bees to your garden is to make a simple mason bee paper tube.
To make your own mason bee paper tube, you'll want to use recyclable 8 1/2" x 11" paper that is clean on one side.
Cut the paper in half so that you have two sheets, measuring out at 5 1/2" x 8 1/2".
Other supplies needed: liquid, non-toxic white glue, a 5/16th " dowel, a damp rag for sticky fingers, and an overall washable surface.
Positioning your paper
Once you have all of your needed supplies ready to go, place your paper on the table in the portrait position, with its clean side facing up. Place the dowel just below the paper's midline.
Apply a thin layer of glue along the top edge of your paper.
Roll with it
Fold the bottom of your paper over the dowel, keeping the sides of the paper even and using your fingers to tightly wrap the paper.
Hold your paper tightly as you roll towards the glue line. Once you reach the glue line, press it across to make a seal and wipe away any excess glue left on your tube or work surface.
If the dowel is free of excess glue, your mason bee paper tube should slide right off with ease.
If your tube is stuck, you'll need to tear it off, wash the dowel off and start again after the dowel has dried. Also keep in mind that if the dowel is still damp from being washed, the paper will become wet and the paper will stick again.
After letting your tubes fully dry for one day, come back to the project and make a cookie out of non-toxic clay.
Use the tube like you would use a cookie cutter, but leave the clay "cookie" in the end of the tube's hole. Once the clay dries, the plugged end will work as the tube's "back door" for the mason bee.
(If you don't plug the back, the bees will spend their time doing it before they start to build the pollen plug.)
Once your paper tubes are complete, be sure to mark which end is the "front door" so that if a tube full of bees spills, you'll know which end is the front and which end is the back.
If the tube is placed in the nesting box in the wrong direction, the bees will die because they do not know how to turn around and go the other way.
Follow all of the given steps to make as many tubes as you need for your nest site. Happy nesting!
This article was updated on March 9, 2017.