Q. Dear Twig: How can I build a house for native bees? You mentioned it last week.
A. Get a piece of untreated wood about the size of a loaf of bread. Say, 12 inches long and 4-8 inches thick. ("Untreated" means it hasn't had any paint, stain or preservative put on it.) Try a piece of four-by-four, for example. Or an unsplit log from a firewood pile.
Drill a bunch of holes in the wood on the side you want as the front of the house. Make the holes in different sizes. (As big around as a pen, a pencil, a drinking straw, etc.) Make some or a lot of them five-sixteenths of an inch across. That's the best size for orchard bees. (See last week!)
Make the holes at least three-quarters of an inch apart, in straight rows or scattered, and as deep as possible. But leave about one-half inch between the bottom of the hole and the other side. Drill as many holes as you want or have room for.
Nail on a piece of flat wood for a roof. Hang the house 3-6 feet off the ground. Sit back and wait for the bees!
P.S. To tell if bees are using the house, look for holes packed with mud. Those are nest cells!
Notes: You might want to get a grownup to help you with the drilling and also, if needed, any sawing. A bee house is actually a block or a log, not a "house" like a bird house (or a people house) with four walls and an empty space inside. See examples at http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/ent/notes/Other/note109/note109.html and http://habitat.ms11.net//bee/beehome.htm. Sources included the National Widllife Federation, http://www.nwf.org/backyard/beehouse.cfm; the University of Arizona, http://cals.arizona.edu/pubs/insects/ahb/inf29.html; and North Carolina State University, http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/ent/notes/Other/note109/note109.html.
About this column: "Smart Stuff with Twig Walkingstick," a free public service of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences - specifically, of the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) and Ohio State University Extension, both part of the College - is a weekly column for children about science, nature, farming and the environment. The reading level typically rates at grades 3.5-4.5. For details, to ask Twig a question, and/or to receive the column free by mail or e-mail, contact Kurt Knebusch, CommTech, OSU/OARDC,1680 Madison Ave., Wooster, OH 44691, firstname.lastname@example.org, (330) 263-3776. Online at http://extension.osu.edu/~news/archive.php?series=science.