DIY Bee House

Make bees of all stripes at home in your yard with an easy-to-make clay bee house. 

From The Bee Book by DK

finished bee house

While scientists debate the many potential (and likely conflated) issues to blame for the loss of our pollinators, nearly all agree that habitat loss is a major factor. By encouraging bee populations in our own backyards, we can help combat this pollinator crisis. Planting flowers that encourage bee activity is one way to help (learn how in Drought-Tolerant Pollinator Plants). Another is creating a backyard bee house.

Bee houses are different from hives, and encourage a more diverse bee population. Bees come in a variety of shapes, sizes and habitat types. Miner bees burrow underground. Carpenter bees make homes in dead trees and stems. The mason bee is known for building beautiful nests that incorporate flower petals and snail shells, and is particularly well-suited to pollinating fruit crops.

Some bees, called solitary bees, don’t even live in colonies. Creating a home for solitary bees in your yard is a simple process that requires only a few easily found materials. Encourage pollination in your yard and help the earth at the same time by building a friendly spot for bees to thrive. Your garden (and the bees) will thank you for it.  

Mimicking natural holes in bare earth, a clay bee house is robust and long-lasting. Use traditional or air-hardening potter’s clay or heavy, clay-rich garden soil, but avoid polymer modeling clay, which contains potentially harmful chemicals.

What You'll Need:

• Measuring tape and pencil
• 4 pieces of lumber, each 8 inches by 4 inches and 3/4-inch-thick (a hardware store should be able to cut these pieces for you)
• 1 piece of lumber, 8 inches by 5 inches and 1/2-inch-thick
• Hand saw (only needed if you’re cutting lumber yourself)
• Electric screwdriver
• Eight 1-1/4-inch and two 3/4-inch wood screws
• Plastic shopping bag
• Potter’s clay or clay-rich soil
• Pen or pencil, for making nest holes
• Two 1-1/4-inch screw eyelets
• Heavy-duty string or twine
• Strong wall hook or branch, for hanging


1. Assemble the four 3/4-inch-thick lumber pieces into a rectangular frame, screwing them together at each corner using 1-1/4-inch screws.

Step 1 

2. Attach the 1/2-inch-thick piece of lumber to a narrow end of the rectangular frame with 3/4-inch screws, letting it form an overhang on one side.

Step 2 

3. Place the wood frame on the plastic bag and pack the frame with clay until the surface is flush with the edge of the frame.

Step 3 

4. Make holes in the clay with a pen or pencil no more than 1/2-inch in diameter. Make as many holes as can easily be accommodated, taking care not to push all the way through. Peel away the plastic bag, and allow the clay to completely dry in a well-ventilated place.

Step 4 

5. Once the clay has dried, screw the eyelets into the roof at equal points toward the back of the frame. Cut a piece of string about 12 inches long. Tie a large knot in one end of the string and thread the free end through one of the eyelets.

Step 5 

6. Pull the string though and insert the free end into the other eyelet. Tie another large knot in the free end to form a loop for hanging the bee house.

Step 6 

7. Hang the bee house on or close to a sunny wall facing south or southeast, at least 3 feet off the ground, with no vegetation obscuring the entrance.

Text reproduced by permission of DK, a division of Penguin Random House from The Bee Book. ©2016 by DK. All rights reserved.

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