Keeping Native Bees
The best way to take part in native bee conservation is to plant native flowers and provide natural nesting habitat in your yard (learn more about Beesponsible gardening). Beyond that, raising native bees is another way to gain a deeper understanding of these fascinating, gentle pollinators and their life cycles. It requires less time, effort and money than keeping honeybees — plus, it’s a kid-friendly activity that can spark a lifelong passion for helping bees!
Types of Native Bees for Your Backyard
Timing: An early-spring pollinator, mason bees emerge when daytime temperatures remain steady at or above 55°F. Males generally emerge first whereas females can take several weeks to hatch.
Housing: Nesting tubes should be 8mm in diameter and made from natural, untreated materials (no plastic).
Nest material: Moist, clayey mud is a requirement for mason bees allowing them to effectively build their nests. If none is readily available in your yard, creating a moist mud hole in the ground near their home can work.
Timing: Emerging when daytime temperatures reach 75°F, leafcutters are considered summer bees. Like mason bees, males generally emerge first whereas females can take several weeks to hatch.
Housing: Nesting tubes should be 6mm in diameter and made from natural, untreated materials (no plastic).
Nest material: Plant material must be accessible for leafcutters to build their nests and make cocoons. A nearby garden with a diversity of plants and flowers is ideal.
While both types of bee are relatively easy to raise, leafcutters tend to be a tad more hands-off as they don’t require clayey mud. If it’s your first time, we’d recommend going with the leafcutter bee!
To learn more about the lifecycle and diet of native bees (mason and leafcutter included), head to our Native Bees section.
Getting Ready for Your Bees
Is your garden ready? For your native bees to be happy and healthy, they’ll need access to plentiful plant and flower material. Be sure you’ve got this Beesponsible Garden checklist handy to make sure you’re ready!
My Garden or Yard
- Includes plants native to my area
- Is free from harmful pesticides
- Has flowers that bloom throughout multiple seasons
- Groups or repeats the same plants
- Provides a fresh source of water
- Embraces weeds like dandelion and clover
If you need ideas on what to plant, check out our regional map to see what thrives in your area.
Install Your Bee House
- Make sure the bee house receives early morning sun. If your area experiences extreme heat (over 100°F during the day) ensure the house is protected from the sun during peak hours.
- Mount the house on the side of a fence, garage or shed at or near eye-level, or 5 to 8 feet high.
- Placement should also provide some protection from wind and rain. Under an overhang or other natural cover is preferred.
There are several suppliers of native bee houses and many DIY ideas available online. If you make your own bee house, ensure that the wood is untreated and clear of any obvious signs of decay or disease.
Order Your Bees
Once you’ve decided which native bee is right for you and you have everything else in place, ordering your bees is the next step. According to Crown Bees, here are the normal shipping timelines:
Spring Mason Bees – February to May
Summer Leafcutter Bees – May to August
After the season is over, there are steps to take to ensure successful overwintering for your cocoons. Refer to instructions received with your bee shipment. For more in-depth information on how to care for your native bees or to order supplies, visit Crown Bees.