mason bees

Are bamboo tubes causing mason bee Armageddon?

The scientist in me is wary of the words “always” and “never.” Although some things are for certain—like death and taxes—“always” and “never” hoist red flags in my mind, warning me that whatever is being said needs a closer look.

Sometimes concealed with a synonym, those words often accompany a flawed statement. Meat is never good. Salt is always bad. You should never feed your bees. You should always rotate your brood boxes. Really? Says who? Time to click on something else.

Bamboo tubes as killers

Recently, I’ve read a spate of articles about the danger of bamboo tubes for mason bees. The articles claim that bamboo tubes are always bad. They will kill your bees. The tubes never dry out. They always grow mold. Bamboos is a significant reason for pollinator decline. Bamboo is an insidious weapon cultivated by the Chinese for the destruction of America. Oh, for heaven’s sake!

Bamboo tubes are the current bad boy in the mason bee world, accounting for all possible problems. Mason bees wouldn’t die, not ever, if we just stopped using bamboo tubes. Ten years ago, the problem was drilled wooden blocks. Back then, they harbored disease, stressed bees, multiplied predators, grew mold, and probably caused bee dementia. They were the sign of an incompetent mason bee keeper, just as bamboo tubes are today.

Wooden blocks and all the rest

At the height of drilled-wooden-block paranoia, I happened to visit the Oregon State University Bee Lab and had a long conversation with a professor of entomology. He told me the very best thing for raising cavity-nesting bees was drilled wooden blocks. But he conditioned them on a few details: drill holes of various sizes in each block and replace the blocks every few years. Sound advice.

A few years later, cardboard tubes took a hit. They were the worst possible housing because parasitic wasps could bore right through the sides of the tube and lay eggs in the bee larvae. At that time, bamboo tubes were recommended because they were harder for the wasps to penetrate, so safer for the bees.

And now, wouldn’t you know it, bamboo tubes are the bad guy because they retain moisture and promote mold growth. Bamboo tubes are causing mason bee Armageddon, and if use them, you are an agent of pollinator decline. Shame on you!

Variations on a theme

The truth is not nearly so riveting. Yes, poorly managed bamboo housing is hard on bees. Poorly managed drilled blocks are hard on bees. Poorly managed cardboard tubes are hard on bees, as are poorly managed paper straws. Do you see a pattern developing here?

What is important is the management of the housing, not the housing itself. The same holds true of honey bees. You can argue about Langstroth vs Warré vs Kenyan top-bar till the cows come home, but it’s the management that counts. If you do nothing, you get nothing (except dead bees). Regardless of whether you keep honey bees or masons or leafcutters or bumbles, it’s your management skill that makes the difference.

Personally, I use many types of pollinator housing, including bamboo tubes. My bamboo-grown mason bees do exceptionally well, even though I live in one of the dampest environments in the country. Yes, even the Pacific Northwest coast, the mold and mildew capital of the New World, is compatible with well-managed bamboo tubes.

Managing with bamboo

How does that work? Well, it’s easy. At the beginning of the mason bee season—about late March—I place last year’s full tubes in an emergence box near new bamboo housing. Before long, the bees emerge, mate, and fill the new tubes. As soon as nesting stops, which is around the end of May, I place the newly-filled tubes in fine-mesh bags and store them in my lightly-heated garden shed. When I say “lightly heated,” I mean it’s heated in the winter just enough to keep it from freezing.

The heat is for the sake of other things I keep there, like flower bulbs, potatoes, and carrots. But it works perfectly for mason bee tubes because it keeps them reasonably dry without total desiccation. A cool garage or basement could work as well. The mesh bags keep predators away from the filled tubes. Although it really isn’t necessary in my shed, I figure it can’t hurt.

So that’s it. The bamboo tubes are outside for two months, and sheltered for ten. No mold. No death and destruction. The bees emerge fat and healthy the following year. My biggest problem is often an over-abundance of mason bees, which are sometimes annoying when they start to appropriate every nook and cranny for their personal use.

If you decide to provide tubes for summer masons and leafcutters, just use a different set of tubes and take them inside as soon as nesting diminishes. Be sure to label the stored tubes so you know when to expect emergence the following year.

Why discourage potential allies?

Fatalistic articles about the dangers of bamboo tubes are short-sighted, written by people who expect everyone to be as perfect as they are. They try to make you feel stupid and incompetent if you use the current “bad boy” technique in your garden. If I recall, one particular article implied you were better off doing nothing than succumbing to the lure of bamboo.

But I so disagree. The greatest threat to pollinator health is not bamboo: instead, it is apathy and lack of awareness, or perhaps fear of bees and insects in general. People who don’t know or don’t care about pollinators can often be seen killing every living thing that isn’t green and shaped like grass.

Bring on the bamboo

I’m actually grateful to the producers of inexpensive bamboo bee housing because I find it is often the first step a person takes toward learning about pollinators and other insects. Because it is small and inexpensive, someone who is only marginally interested may give it a try.

People like to dip a toe in the lake before they dive in. Likewise, many people want to test drive an inexpensive pollinator home before they splurge on fancy condos and a library of books.

Yes, they might err here and there and kill some bees along the way. But if the process piques their interest in bees, if they begin to care, and if they become inspired to learn more about their environment, pollinators of all sorts will benefit in the long run—even if a few died in the process.

We need these beginners, and so do the bees. If cheap bamboo pollinator housing can change a person from a lawn spraying, grass growing, weed killing lunatic into someone who cares for the environment and the things that live there, bring it on! The long-term benefit will certainly outweigh any short-term deficit in management technique.

We need to get off our high horses and spend more time nurturing bee lovers instead of bamboo haters. If we lead with positive attitudes, we will end up doing much more for the bees, and that is what counts.

Honey Bee Suite

With good management, bamboo tubes work well for many types of bees.

With good management, bamboo tubes work well for many types of bees.

More on Mason Bees
For more information on mason bees, try these articles from Countryside:

Raising Mason Bees: Do’s and Don’ts

Exploring the Mason Bee Life Cycle

What do Mason Bees Pollinate?

Discover more from Honey Bee Suite

Subscribe to get the latest posts to your email.


  • Ya know, with your kindness and generosity and sensibility . . . you’re just making the rest of us look bad.

    No, really, what I mean to say is, do we tell you often enough what a great writer you are?

  • Providing homes for any sort of bees requires work. If people want to “save the bees”, I’m now encouraging them to focus on habitat and pesticide usage, instead of keeping bees themselves. We need a version of The 4 Ps for native bees and other pollinators.

    • Andrew,

      Yes, I agree. I think too many people think they actually have to possess bees in order to help them. On the other hand, I think people are more apt to plant flowers and restrict pesticides after they’ve actually been up close and personal with some type of bee. Once they internalize the bee (or bees), they begin to envision ways to help. Maybe we need to develop a “petting zoo” of sorts. A place where people could see bees up close and interact with them.

  • Hey thanks for your article!
    Do you clean out your tubes and cocoons? I’m wondering for the following year: Say you put out your bamboo condo or box in the spring after a winter in the shed, and then the mason bees begin to emerge. If all the tubes are still full of bees slowly emerging, where do the new ones lay their eggs?
    How many tubes successfully emerge on average?
    Also, if a tube has parasites last year, and then a bee lays her eggs in the tube that hasn’t been cleaned, does it likely transfer to that next generation?

    • Do you clean out your tubes and cocoons? I do not clean out the tubes and would not know how to clean out a cocoon, or what purpose that would serve. I discard both.

      If all the tubes are still full of bees slowly emerging, where do the new ones lay their eggs? They lay their eggs in the new tubes you put out for them.

      How many tubes successfully emerge on average? The bees emerge, not the cocoons. In any case, all the bees generally emerge. But on average, I would say 95%.

      Also, if a tube has parasites last year, and then a bee lays her eggs in the tube that hasn’t been cleaned, does it likely transfer to that next generation? Yes. That is precisely why we use a hatching box and set out new cocoons.

      • So, if I had sealed tubes in the early summer, and by October all the seals had been broken, birds, or parasites or both? I have quite a few wrens around where my boxes are located.

        • Sallie,

          Not necessarily. It depends on what type of bee was nesting there. Bees have different seasons, depending on the species. Some emerge in spring, some summer, and some in the autumn. Also, some have more than one generation per year. Remember, we have thousands of different species in North America and they have various lifecycles and calendars. That’s one thing that is so cool about solitary bee boxes.

          • Thank you for your wonderful help! I am a newbie to helping our bee populations! Spent Covid times increasing my pollinator plantings and saw many more different-looking bees!!! Now, question #2: I have my houses moved to the garage in east TN. I see that next week in December we have a week of 40 degrees in am to ’60s in afternoons. Should I find room in my refrigerator for this long of a warmer trend?

            • Sallie,

              You can, but it’s probably not necessary. The bees respond not only to the temperature but to the time they’ve been overwintering. When it’s warm enough and been long enough, they begin to emerge.

  • Great writing, sorry to say there is a little typo; Kenyan, not Kenyon. But you knew that, of course.

  • Hey, I don’t even like the word “beekeeping”! It implies lack of interactivity, like bee custody or bee ownership. A more accurate description is bee farming, since farmers must proactively manage their livestock and crops to produce yields. My first mentor was a very hands-off “keeper”; I’ve since paired with someone who’s a bee “farmer” in the truest sense of the word and I continue to be privileged to learn from him.

  • I have no idea where this bamboo hate came from. I never had any problems. Occasionally there will be a dud tube, but then my setup is to encourage multiple species to use my balcony garden. This includes beneficial bugs that occasionally will get a bee too. Trying to promote a healthy small ecosystem not a perfect sanctuary for 1 species.
    When I have the space somewhere else I will add a bee only house though. It’s working well though, plenty of life now in my balcony garden including plenty of mason and other solitary bees.

    A few nesting bees also visit the flowers, haven’t found out where they might be living in the neighbourhood. The only thing I’m having ongoing negotiations with to leave is a very, very determined wasp queen to use my ladybug room for a wasp nest.

    I think leaving some mint trimmings finally convinced her to find a better spot 🙂

    • This is so well written! Not just for bees but attitude in general. I just bought a mason bee house on a whim, only to find that I actually need to understand how it works and what to do! I’m reading, reading, reading and learning. Your attitude makes me want to continue to educate myself – and yes, I’ve seen several of those articles stating that bamboo is a bee prison camp. As you said, encouraging people to get involved, and to care about the environment is a win – making them feel like an idiot is a loss. Thank you for the information and by the way, I share your dislike of “always” and “never” – in counseling those words are heavily discouraged.

  • Rusty–This took me a while to write for reasons won’t explain here. GB

    The first plant stems I used were of Joe Pye Weed, gleaned from my garden and used for several years before abandoned for a couple of reasons. But I appreciate the lessons I learned from its use. I plugged one end with clay, convinced that bees preferred a tube where one end is plugged — but it is so many years since I reached that conclusion that I have no idea if I had any evidence to back up that assumption. No matter. The following year I plugged my JPW with a different select location between your clay, and this was the start of my exploring annual dating of of tubes.

    Since then, many a walk of mine has been shaped by deliberate inspection — dissection—of stems of plants that I have found while out and about. I am convinced that botanical tubes lead to some of the healthiest bees. But not all botanical tubes are equal. I stopped using JPW because the stem walls are thin and proved to be more vulnerable to parasitic wasps. Thin walls eliminated several other botanicals from my consideration. These days my two favorite weed stems have thick walls and cell nodes and yet are easy to cut — teasel and Japanese knotweed. By using diverse diameters and lengths bees can more easily find “home” —and surprise us keepers with their flexibility.

    By the way I don’t like the thick walls of bamboo, because bamboo is hard to cut, plus it tends to split. Teasel and knotweed I score around the stem at each node with a knife or a file or a dremmel and then snap. In my little drill press I place an abrasive bit and grind annoying side stems so the botanical tubes will fit together neatly. Often I cut them upside down as I find them easier to grind but that may just be my idiosyncrasy.

    As I mentioned, JPW is what set me on the course of color coding each years botanical nesting. After a few years of random colors I adopted the colors used to code honey bee queens. I dip the end in the right color paint (thinned for fast drying) or use color markers. Old nesting tunnels are unhealthy tunnels, this tracking system is fast and I never have nests more than two years old. I wish this habit was adopted more universally.


    • Glen,

      I really like the idea of color-coding the tubes: I’ve never even thought about it before, but it’s a good solution to the ever-present question, “How old is this thing?” I never see teasel or Japanese knotweed unless its on someone else’s land, but I wish I had a source. Lots of people like say they make great tubes.

    • Hi Rusty! I decided to try keeping a bee house as a way to prevent the mason bees from burrowing in my deck railing and screen door. If I’m trying to prevent that, do I need to wait until May to put out the bee house in order to not disturb their pupae? I don’t mind the husbandry aspect of putting them in a bag and releasing next March but I live in South Carolina and my garage is anything but cool in the summer. I don’t really want to poison them but don’t relish the damage they do every summer either. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks

      • Jan,

        Mason bees cannot burrow into wood. They are physically incapable of doing so. Mason bees only use pre-drilled holes or empty cavities. It’s very possible to see mason bees use a hole that another creature drilled, but the masons didn’t do the drilling. If you have borrowing bees, they are most likely carpenter bees, and carpenter bees will not nest in a mason bee house. So if you have carpenter bees, a bee house won’t help.

  • I just need to clarify…

    I have a bamboo mason bee house that I placed out in the spring and I am now bringing into our garage for winter. Some of the tubes seem to have a crystalline substance in them and others appear empty. The bamboo won’t come out and even if it did, I don’t see how I would gently remove the cocoons and clean them like some sites recommend.

    Do i just place the house in my garage until spring and then put it out again and whatever has survived will emerge and whatever empty holes there are will be potential new homes for the next generation of cocoons?

    I am a rank amateur at this and there is a lot of varied advice out there:)

    Thanks for your expertise and guidance.

    • Lynn,

      Yes, just store the mason bee house in your garage or basement and put it out in the spring. It sounds like it’s not too full, so I don’t see any downside to doing it that way. After two or three years, you’ll want to put the whole thing in an emergence box, but that can wait for now.

      I’m not sure what the crystalline substance is. If it seals and covers a filled hole, it could be some type of resin bee, closely related to masons. I do see them from time to time. Otherwise, I’m not sure.

  • Hi, I’ve only very recently been made aware of things like sustainability and permaculture and helping bees as part of those. I’m still really anxious about potentially being stung for some reason, even though I’ve been stung before and it didn’t really hurt that bad (but it was just a wasp). I was wondering if you might know of any low maintenance things I can do to help the bees without having to do too much? I’m also physically and mentally disabled so anything too strenuous might not be able to be achieved even though I’ll try to make a work around. I have a watering station set up with rocks and water that I add every time I water my plants (pretty much every day) but that’s all I’ve seen so far. Sorry for the long comment I just really want to help but I’m not sure how to. Thank you for writing this blog, it’s very interesting!

    • Rowan,

      The most helpful thing you can do is plant flowers, many different types, so that some flowers are always in bloom. Also, don’t use any lawn chemicals or products that may harm the bees.

  • Even if they can’t talk, they vote with their wings.
    The first tubes which get occupied are large holed bamboo.
    Then they condescend to use bamboo which is smaller
    Then they condescend to paper tubes
    Then they condescend to cardboard tubes
    Then they f i n a l l y accept that the only tubes left are the routed-out-wood trays
    I provide paper straws, but so far no mason bee is desperate enough to use one.

    • That’s funny. Mine go in the opposite direction, using the paper straws first and leaving the large-holed bamboo tubes empty.

  • I see what you’re getting at, but I don’t see why the bee house makers can’t offer a healthier option. For example, my first bee house was wooden with bamboo tubes. I was disappointed in time as I learned more about the bees, and felt guilty based on what I observed. For example:

    1. House started to deteriorate after only 1 season.
    2. Tubes were glued to the back wall of the house and so couldn’t be removed without destroying the house.
    3. I left the house out for a second year and watched the bees emerge in year two. The number of mites on some of the bees was horrifying.

    Again, I get what you’re saying, but I do wish the manufacturers were more responsible/creative to better ensure the health of the bees and the positive experience for the buyers.

    I’m now making my own tubes (out of cardboard and masking tape as well as purchased paper straws) and houses (soup and pringles cans, milk cartons, etc) and suggest to friends to try the same. It makes for a fun learning exercise for kids as well.

    • Bamboo tubes are easily filled with straws or home-rolled paper tubes. These negate the problem of glued-in tubes and prevent mite populations from expanding.

  • Thanks for this post. I’m BRAND NEW at bee anything. I bought a little house at Costco and wanted to know if wasps could nest in the bee keeper. I started web surfing and stumbled across this article and want to say that your comment is true for me:

    “I’m actually grateful to the producers of inexpensive bamboo bee housing because I find it is often the first step a person takes toward learning about pollinators and other insects. Because it is small and inexpensive, someone who is only marginally interested may give it a try.”

    I don’t know anything about bees but because I got this little $20.00 house is opening my eyes to a whole new world. Causing me to research, learn and be responsible. Thank you for this great article.

      • I just bought one of these bamboo houses that are apparently so deeply shamed. Whoops! But since I now have my impulse box, I’m going to do my best. Your blog has been very helpful! I have some questions if you have time:

        1) According to your blog, I’ve already missed the season! Is it best to take down my box of shame, or should I leave it up anyway? I’m located in mid-Ohio.

        2) How “heated” does the area need to be for storage? My garage gets chilly in the winter, but warmer than a shed since it’s connected to the house.

        3) where do you get the wrap for the bee house while being stored?

        I’m sure there’s much much more I don’t know, as this is my first attempt at providing a home – I didn’t even think of this as beekeeping!!

        • Laura,

          1. While it might be too late for Osmia lignaria, other cavity-nesting bees come and go throughout the season. I would leave it up and see what you get.

          2. You want it close to freezing or up to about 40 or 45 F. Much warmer than that, and the cocoons may start to open.

          3. You can buy fine insect netting in a fabric store or on Amazon.

          • Paint strainer bag is a fine enough mesh to keep the predatory wasps out, in my experience. Fairly cheap and available, too. I staple a couple layers of it over the front of my mason bee box once they’ve stopped flying and don’t move the box (to avoid killing larvae) until early Oct.

  • I’ve been providing nesting for mason bees for 3 seasons now. After a slow first year, they are now propagating extremely well. I would prefer to use new bamboo tubes each year and find new pre-cut tubes are fairly expensive (per 100). I’ve found bamboo poles (2-4 ft) available fairly cheap. Will they work as well? (just need to cut to size).

  • This is my first year with mason bees. In June I noticed a bee going underneath one of my potted plants. After some research I realized I had mason bees! I purchased a cedar wood bee house and currently researching how to winter them and this article helped. Thank you. There were only 8 cocoons but I’m thrilled.

  • Hi Rusty,

    I have been putting out mason bee houses for only 3 years and have lots of questions. I recently cleaned out the 2 houses and found that the house with cardboard tubes had many tubes with tiny holes in the sides. The other house uses bamboo tubes and has small holes in the front. I isolated them because I was told they were parasitic wasps. Do I destroy those tubes as some have suggested? I also have many tubes that were only half-filled? Do mason bees do that or is it possible those are another type of bee? I appreciate any advice you can give. I have several friends who are advising me plus I am reading lots of websites. Unfortunately, I am getting some confusing information. I have picked up many tips by reading this website. Thank you for the information!

    • Lynn,

      Indenting holes are usually caused by the ovipositor of a parasitic wasp. They usually occur at the sides of a tube, or as you noticed, may occur in the front if that provides easier entry. Holes that are punched toward the outside are exit holes for parasites that hatched inside the tube and then left.

      If you can get the cocoons out of the tube, you can candle them in front of a bright light and see if the cocoon contains a developing bee or if it is filled with little wasps. It’s not too hard to tell: one big bee is fairly easy to see in comparison to a nest of tiny wasp larvae.

      Half-filled tubes are normal. It usually means the mother bee was interrupted in her work before she was done. She may have died of old age (because they just keep working until they die) or the bee could have been eaten by a bird or frog or gotten minced by a lawnmower. There’s no telling why she’s gone, but she’s gone.

      Of course, if you put out mason bee housing, you’re bound to get other species, too. You may get leafcutters, other Osmia, potter wasps, or dozen of others. Any of those could fill a partial tube for the same reason: they died before they were done.

      Having a variety of tenants is a good thing because it is less attractive to specific diseases and predators. In my own practice, I try to vary the size of tubes in order to attract diverse species. Biodiversity is always good and less likely to cause disease problems or parasite problems.

      • Rusty,

        I use Phragmites reeds cut to varying lengths (6 – 10″) and have noticed that they never get completely filled with mason bee cocoons for more than 8″ or so. I’ve gotten a lot less parasitism of the developing bees since I stopped using paper straws, and began harvesting the cocoons in the fall. Candling them and tossing the infested ones goes a long way to reduce parasitism in the following year, IME. The density of the reeds seems to deter the parasitic wasps from getting their ovipositors through the sides.

        The bright LED on the back of my cell phone works great for “candling” cocoons.

        Not to be a pedant but you probably meant “tenant”. 🙂


      • Thank you so much for the information. In order to prevent wasps from poking holes in the side of my cardboard tubes, what do you think about me inserting the tubes into plastic straws?

        I plan to regularly remove tubes after they are filled to protect against parasites AND replace them with a new tube. Do I need to plug the end of the tube or does the bee do that before laying eggs?

        I may switch to bamboo or some other material next season but I am all set up for this season with cardboard. Thank you for answering my questions so quickly. I am new at this and want to properly take care of my bees.

        • Lynn,

          Do not use plastic straws. The developing bees give off moisture that cannot escape through plastic, so mold and decomposition are likely to follow.

          You can plug the back ends if you want, but if you don’t, the bees will do it themselves. Some people believe it’s necessary, but I’ve done it both ways and the female has always started out by building her own barrier on top of the one I gave her.

  • Hey this is cool! Thank you for writing this article. I also purchased the $20 bee house from Costco. I had a starter set of cocoons in my refrigerator from a class I took at a local botanical garden. I hung up the bee house and placed the cocoons in an emergence box last spring and was thrilled with how many tubes filled up.

    Since the tubes and wooden trays are glued in I left them out all winter – I figured mason bees survive in the wild so why not. But this spring the house is already in bad shape. The bees hatched and immediately began filling empty tubes before all had emerged, so it’s too late to swap. I can bring the house in when they’re done for the season and it sounds like I can use the whole thing as an emergence box if I provide fresh digs for them next spring? What does that look like? As in, what keeps them from going back to the old house?

    • Gwen,

      The thing that keeps most of them from going in is the darkness. You will need to put the nest in a dark box with only one tiny exit for the bees to use. They don’t want to go into a dark hole and then try to find the right tube, so they go elsewhere. Some rogue bees will go in anyway, but most won’t.

  • I am so glad I found your blog!!! Two years ago, I saw a bee house and was immediately excited about the idea. I did my research and kept reading how bamboo is bad for bees. I have been putting off buying a bee house because I don’t want to spend a lot but I haven’t been willing to buy bamboo. Sadly, I still haven’t bought one because of this dilemma. Do you have any recommendations for bee houses for a beginner?

  • Hi Rusty, Just found your blog today and I’ve got a question. I live in the US Virgin Islands and because of our tropical environment our bees don’t have any downtime like places that have a winter. My idea was to have two boxes mounted near each other and use bamboo for the tubes as we have little water so no water reeds. I plan on moving the tubes which get used from the first box to the second box as soon as they are done laying in it and adding a new tube to box one, keeping this rotation going all year round. Does this sound viable or could I run into some unexpected problems because they are always active?

    • Roy,

      What will prevent the bees from laying eggs in the tubes in the second box as soon as the bees emerge?

  • Hello! I just received a bamboo “bee house” as a gift and started researching what to do with it. I really appreciate the thought and wisdom you put into this posting. I agree that balance and accountability are the larger issue here. If I want to do something to contribute to the overall bee population and health of the planet than I need to DO something. Not hang a thing I know nothing about in a tree and walk away feeling accomplished—which I was dangerously close to doing! I also live in the NW and I appreciate your guidance.

  • Rusty, I need your help. A few weeks ago the mason bee activity stopped and gnat activity increased. I removed the tubes and containers and placed them in a fine mesh bag to keep gnats away. Today I was checking the tubes and found that one entire house containing 40+ tubes looks contaminated. The tubes are in a plastic can which came with the house. When I pulled the tubes from the plastic container, they had dark mold-looking streaks and yellow pollen looking streaks on the back half. Also, there were tiny worms which are alive. I took photos but cannot figure out how to send them. I see no holes in the cardboard tubes and a few of the ends are open but do not appear to have tiny holes. Do you think they are infected with parasites or something else? What should I do with the tubes? What did I do wrong to create this problem?

    Last year I had so much activity and so many bees. As a result, I put out additional houses for what I thought was going to be lots of bee activity. This year there was not as much activity. Can one put out too many houses? Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    • Lynn,

      How do you know the insects you saw are gnats? My guess is they were parasitic wasps. The most common ones to infect mason bees are Monodontomerus, but they certainly look like gnats. The “worms” were probably the larval stages of the wasps. Parasite populations build up when you put a lot of nesting tubes in a small area. It’s best to spread groups of tubes so they are not in one place, and then cover the tubes as soon as nesting activity slows down.

  • What are your thoughts on 3d printed bee houses? I have a bunch of bumble bees and thought I would give them a home, although I think it is too late to put them out since winter will be coming in 3 months.

      • 3D printers use plastic and other non-permeable substance. It would have the same affect as a plastic straw. You could 3D the outside shell to house the proper tubes for raising bees.

  • Here in northcentral PA I’m seeking recommendations for bee box placement such as: Where is the best location to place the nesting box such as north, south…side of house? Afternoon shade required? Height of the box from the ground? Place on a pole, side of house, tree trunk…? How far away from the pollinator garden? Any bee box placement recommendations? Even where not to place the box would be very helpful.

  • How do I harvest my mason bee cocoons from bamboo? I was given a bunch of filled tubes by another bee keeper and they are all in bamboo. I just harvested all my cocoons from the natural reeds I use but I am afraid to try and crack open these bamboo tubes for fear of harming the bees inside. I keep my mason bees in those special bee boxes in our frig each year until spring. I prefer harvesting them so I can eradicate any pests that may have slipped inside. If I can’t open these bamboo tubes, can I just place them in a jar in our frig or?

    • Laura,

      Bamboo is tough stuff. Sometimes I can get a crack started at the back end, insert a screwdriver into the crack, and twist it. With luck, the tube will split end to end. Otherwise, I wrap the tubes in newspaper and put them in a cardboard box in the fridge. A jar might work, although I wonder if they would get enough oxygen. I don’t know the answer.

  • Your advice is wonderful!!!! Thank you!!! I have expanded my number of houses and tubes for the spring. Sallie in Tennessee

  • You are the best. I’m a newbie, and I googled about how to take care of these bamboo houses, and learned a lot. Your post even is keeping me from killing bees, from knowing I can get a mesh bag and take the bees inside after May, and to replace with new bamboo for next year. What month do I put out the beehouse for the first year, when I have no bees yet… March? I Live in Washington DC.

  • So, I guess that mason bees won’t be around all summer to pollinate my garden! I just don’t have honey bees anymore!

  • I’m posting in regard to the bamboo debate. I had been researching mason bees for a while to help pollinate the fruit trees I have growing in my yard. One day, on my way home from work, I saw a bamboo house laying on top of a pile of garbage. I figured that I could start a colony with that but soon found out that there was already a very healthy and thriving colony already living in it. So, I let nature take her course and they seem to be doing well. I put the house in the garage during winter and bring it out in the spring. I love those little bees. Just another part of the perfect system.

    • That is such a cool story. I wonder why the previous owner tossed them. Maybe they didn’t understand what they were seeing?

      Anyway, congratulation. Good catch and you saved some bee lives!

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.