Solitary Bees


An empty tin, such as for fruit or pet food
Some lengths of bamboo cane or drinking straws
A craft knife
Elastic bands
A hacksaw, if you are using bamboo

Using an Empty Tin to make
A Home for Solitary Bees

This project is supported by the Department of the Environment Environmental Partnership Fund.
Many people think of bees as social insects. There are, however, many species that live solitary lives. The mason bee (osmia rufa) is one of these. It is easy to help this creature to build its nest so that its activities can be observed.

Assembling the Home

Remove the labels from the tin and wash with warm soapy water. Clean it thoroughly.
Cut lengths of bamboo, a couple of centimetres shorter than the tin.
Remove the pith from the bamboo with a knitting needle, or splice them in halves with a craft knife.
If the second method is used, remove the pith and join the pieces together again using the elastic bands.
Pack the lengths tightly into the tin. Drinking straws can be used instead of lengths of bamboo.
Hang the tin, sloping downwards, from a tree in the garden in February.


An alternative to the above is to use elder twigs. These should be about finger thickness.
Remove the pith in the same manner as the pith from the bamboo.
Leave one end intact.
Hang them in bundles of eight from trees or shrubs.

Method of Occupation

Soon a solitary bee will lay eggs in one of the canes.
Each egg will occupy a chamber of its own. This will be sealed with mud.
A supply of pollen and nectar will be left in each chamber for the grub which emerges.
The grub will spend the winter as a cocoon and emerge the following spring.
Text:Paddy Madden
Illustrations:Eileen Fleming
Editor:Marian Rollins
Design:Taran Pyper © 2013

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