How to build a bee box

by Brad Badelt

A backyard bee box can provide a great home for solitary bees to lay their eggs.  Solitary bees – also referred to as “native bees” – differ from honey bees in that every female is fertile, and typically inhabits a nest she constructs herself. Mason orchard bees, the most common solitary bee, use existing holes as nests, rather than build their own.  While solitary bees typically don’t produce honey, they are excellent pollinators.

What You Will Need:

  • One piece of untreated 4” x 4” wood (roughly a foot long)
  • One thin piece of wood (roughly 4” wide and 6” long, less than 1” thick)
  • A metal hook
  • A hand saw
  • A drill with a 5/16” inch bit
  • Carpenter’s glue
  • A piece of thin wire or rope


Step 1:

Saw off one end of the 4” x 4” wood on an angle (roughly 30 degrees).  Then, using a 5/16” drill bit, drill a series of holes in the shorter face of the wood.  Make sure the holes are clean, as bees can be fussy about selecting their homes (consider scrubbing the inside of the holes with a small piece of sandpaper).


Step 2:

Using the carpenter’s glue, attach a thin piece of wood (roughly 4” wide by 6” long) to the sloped end of the bee box.  The roof should overhang on the side that has the drilled holes, to protect the holes from rain.  The roof can also be nailed on.


Step 3:

Screw the metal hook into the top of the bee box.  Using a thin wire or rope, the box can then be hung from a tree branch.  The box should be about four feet off the ground and, ideally, near a food source such as a garden or native plants.  The drilled holes should face south or east, so that they get early morning sun.  Voila!



6 Comments on "How to build a bee box"

  1. Les on Wed, 9th Sep 2009 5:22 pm 

    How deep should the holes be? Just short of all the way through?

  2. Brad on Fri, 11th Sep 2009 3:14 pm 

    The deeper the better, short of going all the way through the wood. When a bee builds its nest in one of the holes, it will then seal the end with mud or plant material.

  3. Randi on Thu, 22nd Oct 2009 5:51 pm 

    I was searching for an article I had seen on building a carpenter bee house out of 6 inch lenghts of bamboo…and I stumbled upon this article. The girl hanging the box looks familiar…and the author even more familiar. =)

  4. peter on Mon, 8th Feb 2010 1:44 am 

    I have built hundreds of bee boxes. I use 6 or so planks
    4″X 8″X5/8″. I route channels of different sizes along the length of the planks. Stack the planks, which creates deep holes(channels). The bee box then has as many as 40 chambers for the bees to ‘nest’ in. (Simple bundles of straws and other small tubes also provide nesting places for these bees.) The box can be dismantled for studying the bees in all stages. They have been used for bee surveys across Canada in the past three years, providing an astounding amount of data on bee habits,parasites,food etc. Bee boxes are a great way to provide nesting habitat for wild solitary bee pollinators. Great idea.

  5. David on Mon, 28th Apr 2014 4:29 pm 

    What kind of bee are you talking about?

  6. ontarion on Thu, 19th Jun 2014 5:52 pm 

    Hi David,

    Thanks for asking! These are bee boxes for native bees, such as the mason orchard bee, and species of solitary bees.

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