Friday, December 13, 2019

Not a Christmas gift for bees (or anyone else)...

If you're looking for a Christmas gift for a bee lover, please don't buy one of these!

I was given one for my birthday two springs ago, or is it three? But I recently learned that these mass-produced bamboo bee homes (I think this is the Costco variety) are just death-dealing decorations for our North American mason or carpenter bees. The bamboo stalks have splinters inside that damage bees' wings if they try to nest in the tubes. You can learn more about the horrors of these kinds of bee homes by clicking here. Mine, the one you see in the picture, will burn well in a bonfire next spring, I'm afraid.

Better than having a poorly made and mostly ignored bee home is to cut and leave your hollow-stalked plants laying in your yard so bees can populate them. (Messy yards are great bee habitat!) The other problem with bamboo bee homes is that it's important to dismantle and clean them so parasites don't take over and make meals of the bee larvae before they even hatch. It turns out that bamboo homes like mine are better for parasitic wasps (which are tiny) than for nesting bees. And when I think how many of these have been put out over the past few years, I shudder. I thought I was helping bees by providing them a home, but it's clear that an idea without further basic understanding can be disastrous.

If you want a good bee house, they aren't that hard to make (get some ideas about how by clicking here), but it's probably best not to bother unless you're willing to care for your bees by cleaning out their homes each autumn. You can find cleanable homes and the proper kind of wood or cardboard nesting tubes by clicking here, but it's really important that they be maintained over time.

For more information about creating sanctuary for our wild bees, check out this blog by the Queen of Green, a Canadian woman who knows what she's talking about.

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