Native Bees

Paul Navrot provided a class at Milagro Community Garden on native pollinators and here is a summary and some of the tools.  This is the information that he put together and you can contact him below at his website.
The Native Bees Class on Sunday, May 20th included a discussion focused on the cultivation of non-honey producing, North American bees.   These non-aggressive pollinators serve an important ecological function in agricultural practices of all scales that incorporate crops not dependent on wind-pollination.  Gardeners, or anyone interested in supporting, cultivating, and observing these crucial roles in the ecosystem can rear mason and leaf-cutter type bees by building habitat.  Adult bees rear larvae in nests created using mud or vegetation – mason and leaf-cutter types respectively, in bored holes that are found in tree trunks.  A gardener can imitate this habitat by drilling horizontal, or slightly downward holes in dead wood that receives morning sun and is protected from rain and snow.  A paper lining or cardboard tube inserted into this cavity can allow the harvesting of young in the event of incomplete emergence the following year.  Special attention should be given to integrate a diversity of flowering plants, particularly natives, in garden compositions for sources of nectar and pollen. Included as part of this class was actual construction where the class built and installed a bee-brooder-post at the Milagro Community Garden.  Employing basic carpentry, the class quickly transformed two pieces of untreated ‘two-by-four’ into a bee brooder that is capable of rearing hundreds of mason and leaf-cutter type bees.  The brooder-post serves as highly conspicuous place where people can observe the life processes of pollinators while they assist in the fruit and seed setting of crops in nearby gardens.
Published resources for more information regarding native bees …
Bee Basics: An Introduction to Our Native Bees,” by Dr. Beatriz Moisset, and Dr. Stephen Buchmann.

The New Mexico Native Bee Pollinator Project

Penn State Extension, “Wild Bees as Alternative Pollinators

This Template will help you drill holes for your bees- drilling template

Pablo Navrot’s website/ garden journal

4 responses to “Native Bees

  1. Good article and resources. Glad that you talk about using paper liners which is very important to clean out parasites, but could I suggest that you recommend using deeper holes than 3 inches. At this depth you’ll risk producing predominantly male bees and very few female bees which would be a waste of time if you are trying to expand the population.
    If this is aimed at spring mason bees, up to five male bees are typically placed at the front of the tunnel (to have enough male bees if there’s a late frost, for post-nesting front-entrance parasite losses and to protect females from beaks), so it’s only from two and a half inches in that future female nest chambers are provisioned. A three inch tunnel means that a female nesting bee with expend an awful lot of energy for the population to stand still. Five to six inch tunnel depths are much better.


    • Paul,
      Thank you for your feedback. You have a nice FB site and we appreciate people supporting pollinators. We have been having luck with these in Northern New Mexico, but may have more luck with a longer tunnel. Where are you located? I will also forward to our writer to see if he has any feedback on longer depths in this area.


      • Hello again.
        I raise mason bees in Picardy (France) of all places – I have two populations Osmia cornuta (a hornfaced European species) Osmia rufa (Red mason bee). I’ve been tempting them away from sandy mortar brick joints since around 2005 with nesting aids and I’ll have around 2,200 for next spring. What I have learned from fellow mason bee keepers in the US, Canada and UK is that the principles are roughly the same for most mason bees in respect of tunnel depth.
        A researcher very experienced mason bees (G.E. Hutchings) did some research on tunnel length and posted his results on his very interesting site here: (scroll down) concluded that ‘there is a trend towards more female offspring with a longer channel length’ amongst other issues. Well worth a read.
        If I may plug my project a little further, aside from the FB page, a forum is being set up for next year on Mason bee husbandry here:
        All the best,


  2. A new book by Beatriz Moisset, a guide to flower visitors. An easy guide for young people or beginners who want to learn a little about flower visitors including pollinators.


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