Daniel Carter is a troop leader with Cub Scout Pack 740 in Gresham. He is also a graphic designer and woodworker. Last July, Carter volunteered with Metro for Graham Oaks Park Day in Wilsonville. He and his Cub Scouts assembled and built 100 mason bee boxes to hang at Metro destinations and local parks. Scouts and other volunteers put roofs on the boxes and inserted rolls of parchment paper into the tubes for easy maintenance.
Q: Can you tell us a little about the mason bee?
A: They are great native pollinators. The mason bees dive into flowers and get coated in pollen. In contrast, honeybees don’t get as much pollen as they travel from flower to flower. They don’t look like bees people are used to; people might expect they are flies until they recognize them. They are solitary bees and make homes in hollow reeds or tubes. They need habitat that provides a hole about 3/8-inch in diameter and 3 to 8 inches deep in size to lay their eggs. The deeper the space for the bee, the more female eggs that will be laid. Male eggs are laid nearer the entrance to the hole. They don’t sting, so you really want to bring them into your garden at home to pollinate.
Q: How did you decide to provide habitat for bees?
A: I noticed mason bees making a home in the tubes of my metal wind chimes on my front porch. I couldn’t imagine how nice that could be for habitat, so I decided to make homes for the bee. I’m a woodworker, and it was something I could do with our scout troop, and then I got a call from Metro for an event to make 100 and it just kept going.
Q: How do you build your bee boxes?
A: You can use any type of material. I have used recycled wood so the boxes I’ve made are 3/8- inch holes drilled 3 inches deep into pine wood blocks. The “roof” on top of the box is aesthetic but can help keep water out as bees lay their eggs. If you want to be able to use the bee box again, it’s good to roll up a tube of parchment or similar paper to line the holes that have been drilled. That way, after the bees have hatched and left the bee box, you can pull the paper tubes out to “clean” the holes, put new paper parchment tubes inside, thus providing refreshed habitat.
Q: If we build our own at home, what should we consider?
A: Hang your bee boxes in late winter or early spring. You want to have the habitat ready for when they hatch, so they have the right place to lay their eggs.
Learn more about how to support pollinators in your backyard