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Butterfly Garden Design

Bee House

The Butterfly Garden Plan is an easy family project using colorful, nectar-rich natives, such as New Jersey Tea, Prairie Blazing Star and Butterfly Weed. Add a shallow saucer or old birdbath filled with sand, gravel and water for a butterfly “watering hole.”

The Butterfly Garden Plan offers a diversity of native plants that will create an explosion of life, color, and most importantly, butterflies in your very own yard! The profusion of blooms throughout the summer will provide a high quality nectar source for hundreds of local pollinators. Not only is this garden beautiful, it's a highly functional addition to any property.

Instructions (spring or fall installation)

Identify any cells which have been taken over by the fly Cacoxenus indigator, whose larvae eat the pollen store and bee larvae. The contents of these cells should be removed and destroyed before the adult flies emerge.

Replace drilled blocks with brand new ones every two years. This is done in the summer, after the young bees have emerged. It will help to prevent the build-up of fungus moulds, mites and other pests and parasites.

Bee House Management

The following techniques will help you maintain a healthy population and may help to prevent the build-up of parasites

Parasite: Cacoxenus indigator

Bee House This is a very small fly with red eyes that you may see around your Red Mason Bee tunnels. The larvae of these flies eat the pollen store and the young bee larvae in the Red Mason Bee's cells. They remain as pupae throughout the winter and the adult flies emerge in spring, using the small holes in the mud walls to escape. They are the most important biological factor in the reduction of Red Mason Bee populations.

In late summer or autumn you should examine all the tubes that have been walled-up with mud during the summer and identify any in which there is now a small hole. These have been taken over by the fly, and these tubes or tunnels should be cleaned out and the contents destroyed.

Identify Bee Larvae Death

If dampness gets into a cell the pollen store can go mouldy or the bee larva or pupa itself can succumb to fungus diseases. Also bee larvae can be killed by wasps, or by invasions of pollen mites that eat the pollen store so that the bee larva starves.

During winter, after removing the contents of any tunnels that have fallen prey to the Cacoxenus fly, mark all sealed tunnels with a coloured marker pen. This will not harm the emerging bees next season as they do not ingest any of the mud wall of each cell, they simply break it up to get out. At the end of next season (i.e. next September or October), any tunnels that still have the coloured mark represent those from the previous year in which the bee larvae died and did not emerge. These should be cleaned out, or in the case of bamboo or cardboard tubes, removed and destroyed.

Protect Houses From Winter Wet

Bee House You can remove the occupied logs and tubes and keep them in a cold dry place during the winter, to protect them from winter wet, replacing them in the bee house in March. An unheated shed, porch, or carport will do. This is very important – winter wet, not cold, is their enemy. Do not store in a warm place – they need to be cold but protected from persistent heavy rain during the winter.

Persistent wind-blown rain can dissolve the mud walls of the cells, and cause both wooden blocks and cardboard bee tubes to rot, and the young bee pupae will succumb to fungus diseases. If your bee house has a good overhanging roof and is completely rainproof you can leave the tubes there during autumn and winter. From April onwards, young bees that have over-wintered in a dormant state inside the tunnels will emerge, and start the cycle over again.

Beware Birds

If you notice Woodpeckers or other birds attacking the tunnels looking for bee larvae, fix a piece of chicken wire across the front of the bee house. This does not seem to deter the bees.

Further Information

Mason Bees
Where Do Native Bees Go In Winter?
How To Help Bumblebees