Making Mud for Mason Bees
In the spring, female mason bees protect each nesting chamber with a wall of clayey mud. They're named after masons for a good reason and they're picky about the mud they need.
If mason bees can't find clayey mud nearby their bee house, they won't nest and will fly away to find a better site. Female mason bees carry a mud ball in their large mandibles (jaws) and they are looking for a mud that is the correct sticky and clayey texture. Mason bees don't like mud that has too much sand or organic material.
Learn how to identify good mud for mason bees and how to provide the right kind of mud if it's missing.
Three Ways to Provide Mason Bee Mud:
1. Naturally occurring clayey mud.
Within about 25 feet from your bee house open up a hole in the ground with a trowel or shovel. Make a hole that has vertical walls which gives the bees a choice of moisture content throughout the day. Add water to the soil and look for a texture that sticks together when wet and pinched, like dough or clay. If you found clayey mud just remember to add some water during dry periods while the mason bees are nesting.
2. Add Mason Bee Mud Mix.
If your wet soil test crumbles, add our Mason Bee Mud Mix to the hole in the ground. Simply open the bag of Mason Bee Mud Mix and slowly add water, kneading the dry mix and water together until it feels like clay. Add the kneaded mix along one vertical wall of the hole in the ground. Again, this gives the bees a choice of mud with the right moisture throughout the day. Make sure that the clayey mud is moist and usable throughout mason bee flying season.
3. Set up a Mason Bee Mud Box.
For arid locations and rooftop gardens, or if you struggle to keep your clayey mud moist throughout the day, our Mason Bee Mud Box is the solution. Water is stored in the bottom of the mud box and is wicked up a capillary cloth to the lump of Mason Bee Mud Mix (included). Follow the instructions for setting up the mud box, again locating the mud within about 25 feet of the bee house and provide it with some shade. You can close the lid or leave it open, there are four access holes for the bees to come and go as they gather mud.
Pro tip: Do not put mud mix or wet dirt into a bowl. The mud will either dry out quickly or remain too wet in the bowl. A vertical hole in the ground will connect the mud to water underground and the bee can find the right kind of mud throughout the day.
Follow these options and you should have happy mason bees at your bee house this spring!