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Old 03-21-2008, 02:53 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Mason Bee House Construction

Should you decide to build houses for these type of bees, here's a tutorial on how to build one. It is quite easy. Be sure to read in between each post to recognize the most important details. I have divided into several posts for easy printing.

Materials:
4" x 4" Douglas Fir at least 6" long (actual dimension is 3.5" x 3.5")
1/4" plywood
2 pairs of matching hook and eye screws
4 pcs 3/4" wood screw
Reynolds Parchment Paper, 15" wide, at least 42" long
10 pcs Hibernating Mason Bees (Cocoons or in Straws)


Equipments:
Miter Saw or table saw or hand saw to cut the 4" x 4" wood
3/8" Drill bit for wood, at least 7" long.
1/16" drill bit
Drill Press or Drill with built-in level guide, or Ordinary Drill and 3" brace
Vise
Center Punch
Hammer
Ruler
Pencil
Screw Driver
1/4" metal rod, 1 ft long
Kitchen Knife
paper cutter or scissor
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Old 03-21-2008, 02:53 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: Mason Bee House Construction



The most important equipment that you would need is the drill and the drill bit. The drill bit should be capable of drilling 3/8" hole and 6" deep into the wood. The ideal hole size of the most common Mason Bee is 5/16", although different species ranges in size from 1/4" to 3/8". The Mason Bee that was given to me require a hole size of 5/16". The reason why I am using a 3/8" drill bit is because the hole will have a parchment paper liner. After lining the hole with a parchment paper, the final size of the hole would be 5/16" which is perfect size for the Mason Bee that I have obtained.
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Old 03-21-2008, 02:53 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: Mason Bee House Construction



Miter Saw is very handy to quickly cut pcs of wood, very neatly, very quickly and is more portable than table saw. Of course, you can use Hand saw or table saw if these are the only ones available. The most important thing is that, you are able to cut a 3.5" x 3.5" piece of lumber.
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Old 03-21-2008, 02:54 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: Mason Bee House Construction





I have obtained 4"x4" Douglas Fir wood that are often used for fence post. You can use Pine wood too. Just avoid using Redwood or pressure treated wood posts as these have insect repellant properties. Mason Bees wouldn't be too happy in those types of wood. I use Douglas Fir, and they costs about $8 for a 6 ft long 4"x4" post. You can go to the wood scrap section of the store, and often you can get odd lengths and can be bought for less than $1 a piece. I got my 3 ft long 4"x4" for free from the scrap bin because the wood that I got has a few cracks in them, so the nice guy at the store just gave it away to me.

The 4"x4" actual dimension if you measured it is exactly 3.5" x 3.5". The major reason is that it is smooth all sides, and so some dimensions were lost during the smoothing process. Simply cut the wood into 6" long pieces. The actual dimensions of the wood blocks shown above is 3.5" x 3.5" x 6". You make a lot of these houses for future expansion of your bees.
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Old 03-21-2008, 02:55 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: Mason Bee House Construction



The recommended spacing of holes are shown above. Notice that the holes should start at least 1/2" from the wood's edge. They are also arranged alternately to keep spacing between holes as far as possible. The hole spacing when configured from the above illustration is between 0.9"-1.0". If you follow this spacing, you should be able to fit 12 holes inside the 3.5" x 3.5" wood. Use your pencil and ruler to layout the grid patterns at the smoother end of your wood block. Or you can also use paper template by using your computer.
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Old 03-21-2008, 02:55 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: Mason Bee House Construction



You can fit more holes as long as you can drill comfortably straight down. The spacing between holes would be dependent on how you handle the drill. Too near each other, you will have overlapping holes at the other end of the wood, and you should avoid that. I can comfortably drill straight through if the spacing is 0.8" between holes. And I was able to fit 17" holes on the 3.5" x 3.5" wood block. I laid out the pattern on a computer so that it would be more precise and easier to manipulate. This way, I was able to add more holes according to the minimum hole spacing that I am comfortable with.

I cut the template and tape it to the smoother end of the block. Secure it unto a vise grip. Since I don't have a vise grip, I used our Christmas tree stand. It is heavy and holds the block very well.
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Old 03-21-2008, 02:56 PM   #7 (permalink)
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After marking the holes or securing the hole template, and securing the block on a vise, use center punch and hammer to initially mark out the holes for drilling. I simply remove the template and reuse it for the next block of wood.
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Old 03-21-2008, 02:56 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Default Re: Mason Bee House Construction



Use the 3/8" drill bit for wood that is at least 7" long to drill the holes through the 6" long block. This is the most challenging part. Normally, bench press would be perfect for this job, but not all of us have bench press that can drill perpendicularly straight down. I use a drill that have a built-in leveler at the back. It helps me drill holes straight down. If you don't have such a drill, you can use an ordinary drill and a 3" square brace. Place the brace flat on top of the wood, then align your drill bit next to it to guide it straight down. After you drill about 3", you can remove the brace and you should be able to drill straight down without a problem. The drill must go through the 6" block of wood, end to end.
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Old 03-21-2008, 02:57 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Default Re: Mason Bee House Construction



And here's 17 holes that are 6" deep drilled through this block of wood.
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Old 03-21-2008, 02:57 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Default Re: Mason Bee House Construction



Next step is to prepare the liners for the holes. The major purpose of the liner is that it you will be able to take out the bees when they are hibernating, inspect them and clean them up. Mites are also a problem amongst the Mason Bees. You will sometimes have to clean the holes of these pests when there is major infestation. The use of liner facilitates all that. You can pull the liners easily from the holes, open them, and clean up if needed and then place back again. You can also have the dormant bees tucked inside the liners and ship them off to friends who would want them, or you can sell them off. Because we are using liners for the holes, we drilled holes that are slightly bigger in size that are recommended, so that when we place the liners, the final hole size is perfect for the Mason Bees.

One of the best recommended liner is the Reynolds Parchment Paper. There are other liner papers that often have waxes on them but they are often chewed by the bees and defeat our purpose of using them. There have been no reports of other problems when using Ryenolds Parchment paper. Buy the size that is 15" wide so that it can be cut into 3 pcs of 5" x 6 1/4" sections.
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Old 03-21-2008, 02:58 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Default Re: Mason Bee House Construction



Cut the parchment paper into 5" x 6 1/4" size. You can first mark out 6 1/4" marks along the length of the 15" wide parchment paper and then cut them with paper cutter. Then cut each one into 5" sections, giving you three pcs of 5" x 6 1/4" liner sheets.
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Old 03-21-2008, 02:58 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Make as many liner sheets as you have holes.
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Old 03-21-2008, 02:59 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Pick up one liner sheet and roll it unto a 1/4" metal rod that is about a foot long. The 6 1/4" length should along the length of the metal rod.



Continue rolling until the sheet is snugly fit unto the metal rod.
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Old 03-21-2008, 02:59 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Hold the paper snugly unto the rod and insert it into the hole in the block. If you encounter some resistance, simply rotate the metal rod along the direction of the roll of the paper while wiggling it in, until it comes out at the other end. Then simply let go of the paper and it will slightly uncurl. Remove the metal rod, leaving the paper in place.
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Old 03-21-2008, 03:00 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Default Re: Mason Bee House Construction





Oftentimes, when you roll the paper unto the rod, it is not perfectly aligned and will form a slight spiral. Simply push the paper with your thumb until it is aligned with the hole, and then push back with your index finger at the back, push back and forth several times and the paper roll will align nicely to your satisfaction. Just push with your thumb one last time for the final alignment.
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Old 03-21-2008, 03:00 PM   #16 (permalink)
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Default Re: Mason Bee House Construction



here's how the block of wood appears when all the liners are in place.
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Old 03-21-2008, 03:01 PM   #17 (permalink)
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Default Re: Mason Bee House Construction



Place the block face down on a flat surface, with the liners protruding at the back of the block. Pinch the end of each liner to close them, and then bend each liner to one direction. It is important that you have liners coming out at the pack so that it is easier to pull when you have something to hold to when you open it for cleaning in the future.
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Old 03-21-2008, 03:01 PM   #18 (permalink)
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Secure the end of the bent liners by screwing it in place with a piece of 3.5" x 3.5" plywood that is at least 1/4" thick. It is recommended that you pre-drill the screw holes with 1/16" drill bit to prevent wood splitting.
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Old 03-21-2008, 03:01 PM   #19 (permalink)
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Using a kitchen knife, carve out small notch along one edge of the block, placed at about 1/2" from each end.
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Old 03-21-2008, 03:02 PM   #20 (permalink)
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Place the eyelet screw on the couple of notches that you made.
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