Entries in Backyard Blog (5)


Quick Mason Bee Houses

Hey friends!  Things have been slowing down just a little bit from the frenzy.  I've been wanting to revisit making some mason bee houses since we have all the flowers on the property coming out in phases - especially the blackberry bushes now in bloom.  I built a mason bee tray house a while back (HERE).

My workshop isn't set up yet with all the projects going on so I decided to use only what I had onhand as far as scrap material and supplies.  So I went for it!  I definitely wanted to use routed out trays so that I can harvest the cocoons and place them in the fridge until next Spring.  But to also keep the mason bee houses clean each season to avoid pests and diseases.

So here's what I came up with for three houses that I put in different places around the property.  I'll keep you posted on whether or not I have visitors.  It is a little late in the season.

I mostly freehanded the routing with some help from a straight edge at times.  I wasn't too worried about getting perfect lines since nature isn't perfect.

I used a 3/8" round nose router bit at a depth of 5/16".  This is recommended quite often and hopefully it will prove successful.

When I was initially finished making the trays I realized I had enough to make two tray houses if I wanted to.  I used a cut from the fence board planks to cap the tray groups.  Zip ties were used to keep the tray bundles together and tight until harvest.

House #1 was completed with some remnant wood and pieces of cedar fence planks I had on hand.  And capped with some metal flashing I had laying around.  ...Some bee push pins to dress it up a bit.  Vintage door hinges were perfect for hanging and attaching on top and on the bottom.

House #2 is a mixture of routed trays and some cardboard tubes.  I made paper liners for the tubes with parchment paper.  I cut the parchment paper to about 7" x 2.5" rectangles and rolled them up around a pencil to push into cardboard tubes.  Scissors were used to trim off any extra from the front.  You'll want to leave about 1/8" to 1/4" of paper liner tube sticking out in front so that you have something to grab to pull out the tubes at harvest time and also to clean out.  I folded/pinched the back ends of each inserted parchment paper liner.

I used some new/old stock door trim/plinth pieces for the body of House #3.  Some cardboard tubes finished it out with some board on top to keep them pressed down and in place. 

I hope some of you will or already have built some mason bee houses or purchased some for your yard.  They are amazing polinators that get more pollination done than most bees.  Be sure to not use old wood that holes have been drilled into if possible.  Over time, they are prone to contain and harbor diseases and pests which works against your success with mason bees and other similar bees like leaf cutter bees.  Please use paper lined cardboard tubes (so they can be cleaned out) or trays that have been routed out.  There are also many suppliers out there that can sell you these items to get you jump started on Etsy, Amazon or their own websites.  Happy Pollinating!


Monday Visitors...

Here are a few visitors from early this morning that ventured into the yard while it was still quiet this morning...

Carolina Wren

The early bird REALLY DOES get the worm (American Robin)

One of our resident rabbits.  I'm pretty sure this one of the babies from our early Spring family we found in a quiet corner of the yard.  There were four little bunnies.  Hopefully the other three have found favorite yards for themselves.

A male Cardinal grabbing some peanuts for breakfast.


Sunday Visitors...

I decided to slow down for a break today and see what came through the yard right after we finally got a good rain for about 30 minutes.  I'll start with a female Ruby-Throated Hummingbird.  She and a male were checking out the flowers and the feeders.

Here's a Snowberry Clearwing Moth.  A really fascinating creature.  It flies silently and slowly moves around to each flower pod on my butterfly bushes.  This is the first one I've seen this season.  Here's a picture of last years (HERE).

Here's a Brown Thrasher.  They are very interesting to watch with their stern eyes and they sweeping motion moving around leaf litter to see what bugs or worms it runs across.

Don't freak out!  These are actually good bugs to have.  They are Assassin Bugs.  Cool name, huh!  They scour your plants looking for all kinds of juicy bugs to grab, stab and dine.  Be careful not to handle them though.  It's said they give a pretty good sting with the proboscis.  That's what they jab into their victim and inject their poison to dissolve their prey's insides out to then suck up.

Remember, it's good to not just go grab anything off the shelf at the store that kills everything.  If you let nature take its course, there are usually always good bugs to run off bad bugs.  Rarely do you need to do anything to interfere.  Just do a little bit of Google research like I do a lot.  It's knowledge that will last a lifetime!

This one might look dangerous, but it's not.  It's a Milkweed Bug.  It just sucks on Milkweed plants.  But doesn't really do enough damage to worry about them.  And their life cycle is short only lasting during the blooming season of Milkweed plants.  Birds and others don't like them though because they keep a lot of the toxins and distasteful aspects of the Milkweed plant within themselves to really give a nasty taste to a would-be predator.

Now, get out there and see what's going on your yard!  Happy yarding!


Backyard 101: Extra Fence Posts Laying Around?

It's been a while since I posted something with specific ties to backyard projects and tinkering.  I had some extra fence boards laying around that I hadn't made more birdhouse boxes with.  At the same time, I just planted some trees and I needed something quick to keep the grass at bay around them and the weedeater a safe distance from those delicate trunks.  So I put two and two together.

Of course, you know I had to fancy them up somehow.  I decided to go with a barn red color and did some distressing on them to give them some extra age so they don't look like "new tennis shoes" out in the yard.


Tree Planting Just In Time...

I finally managed to get some trees in the ground.  I was hurried up in my delayed project by the sincere promise of lots of rain.  So, on Monday, I planted several trees and a few bushes.  We managed to get about 4 to 5 inches of rain.  It seemed like a lot more but it was a steady rain that soaked into the soil nicely.  Just right for freshly planted vegetation.

A couple of them are going to be really enjoyed by the birds.  The Wax Myrtle and Crab Apple should be a great future bird photography squatting location in the future.