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Sunday, February 24, 2013

Fit for a Queen

The first step to building my insect hotel was to research what future residents I could hope to attract here in my central Texas yard.  I already have toads, wasps and lady bugs, but want more bees and lacewings.

I learned that most of the native bees in Texas are ground dwellers.  That meant that whatever nest I built would need to be very low.  I learned that bumblebees like to nest in old mouse holes.  On the Internet I found a lot of sites in the UK that sell bumblebee houses and a lot of chatter about their effectiveness.  Apparently the queen is not easily amused.  Here are the two best websites I found for constructing a nest.

I had some old shelving and thought that it would make a good start for the project.  The bottom shelf of this unit was about the right dimensions for the two-chamber design.
I cut a piece of plywood for the back and front.  The idea is that the front will be hinged so I can clean it out when necessary.

Then I cut a block to divide the two chambers and drilled a hole in it.  This is what the queen can use to enter the nest.

I cut a piece of 1/2" pvc and painted it brown.  Then attached it with glue in between to blocks.  This will help simulate a dark mouse hole.

I drilled a hole in the door for the mouse hole entrance.  Of course I didn't get this lined up perfectly and had to chisel out the hole.  GRRR.

I used a screen door latch for the door.  And installed hinges with the tiniest screws.  I had to improvise to find a bit small enough to handle them.

Finally I drilled some ventilation holes and stapled some mesh over them to keep other bugs out.  I cut up an old bag I had for the squares.

I installed the shelving in between the two posts I had placed in the herb garden.  I made sure that it was facing southeast and four inches from the ground, as recommended.

I saved shavings from the front yard tree removal and put them in one side of the box.  I also threw in some cat hair - mouse holes are hairy, right?

Now I just have to wait.  Bumblebee queens start looking for housing in February.  I haven't seen any out in the yard - in fact I have rarely seen any bumblebees in the three years I have lived here.  I planted lavender next to the box to try to entice them in years to come.  If I can make the backyard a destination, perhaps some day her highness will deign to grant me the magnificence of her presence and raise a regal brood.

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