Making Carpenter Bee Houses

As I mentioned in my previous post, I am upset about dead bees, Valley Carpenter Bees to be specific.  Since it appears other folks might want them dead and gone or at least off their property, I want to offer them sanctuary and welcome them at Hanbury House.  Valley Carpenter Bees are solitary, docile, hardworking, native bees, that spend many hours a day pollinating fruits and vegetables around the neighborhood. Since I want to keep the bees around, I decided the kids and I could spend a Sunday afternoon making homemade wooden bee houses out of left over wood we had.

Homemade Valley Carpenter Bee Houses, similar to the kinds sold for mason bee houses

Although European Honey Bees like community hives, our Bee houses are a series of holes for the carpenter bees to hopefully discover, improve, and make into a nest.  I have seen some bee houses for sale in gardening catalogs, and they don’t look too complicated make, but most of them are designed for smaller mason bees, like the ones I photographed while visiting Catalina in March.

Valley Carpenter Bees,  Xylocopa varipuncta, are rather large in comparison to many of the other carpenter bee species, a little over an inch in length.  They are the largest bee found in California and are one of the largest bees in America.  I was unable to find information on how wide of a hole we needed for the Valley Carpenter Bees.  Most of the holes on other sites were for the smaller species of wood dwelling bees.  Therefore, we made them slightly larger and of 3 different sizes, ranging from 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch.  The bees are bound to find one of the sizes to their liking.


We had plenty of scrap lumber around, left from our facelift to the back bathroom and laundry room makeover.  I chopped up a partial redwood 4 x 4 into six pieces, mitered the top half of each section, cut little roof pieces from another scrap piece of plywood at 45 degree angles, and then we all had fun playing with drill.  Most of the commercial bee house have hole that are very symmetrical in neat little rows, but all the holes I have seen made by carpenter bees, certainly aren’t that way in their design, very random.

City Girl Farming Blog inspired me to make these myself, and she has a nice tutorial on how she made hers.  A link to her site can be found on the right hand side bar.

On another side note, on Tuesday afternoon, while I was out supervising the baby chicks wandering around the yard, I was happy to notice a female carpenter bee in the yard, with no signs of illness.  I guess I better hurry up and find a nice spot to hang our new bee houses.  The patio table is not a good spot for them.


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Making Carpenter Bee Houses — 12 Comments

  1. Those bee houses are also attractive. I have seen the carpenter bees in my yard but they seem healthy. No dead ones about. When the orange trees are in bloom we do see dead bees in the yard but I think that is just from the sheer numbers that come for the orange blossoms.

  2. You can’t imagine how long I have been searching for a positive site about carpenter bees! Thank you! Have you had success attracting carpenter bees to your bee houses?

    • Hi Alison,

      No bees settled into the bee houses so far, but it could be we put them out too late. Or it could be where we mounted them. I might move them to see if another area is more attractive. Maybe this year they will decide to use them. However, I have been seeing a lot of carpenter bees so far this spring around the yard when I am outside, approx. two or three females a day. I have seen a male twice in the last month. I am happy to report, I haven’t found any dead valley carpenter bees this year.


      • An update this Spring on bees:

        Although no bees have settled into the bee house still, I have seen a greater abundance of carpenter bees this Spring than normal. At any given time there is at least one or two females buzzing around the yard, and sometimes more. And every afternoon, a male Valley Carpenter Bee stacks out his territory near the veggie garden.

        I have also seen a lot of other bees and wasps around, especially Scoliid Wasps, Campsomeris tolteca, around the yard. Scoliid wasps look like a really long honey bee, about the size a queen or an inch or so long.

  3. I, too, am glad to see a positive site about carpenter bees. We have a lot out under the eaves beside our garage but a woodpecker found them recently and I can see that some of them are looking for a home. (They keep trying to go into other tunnels and get chased out by the resident bee there.)
    There are also some black and white wasps that have taken over one or two of the tunnels. I was hoping to build something that might help out the newly homeless bees as I was thinking that it might be too late in the season for them to build another nest.
    I’m not sure if I can help though, as I haven’t found anywhere online that says they’ve successfully had these bees nest where they’ve made a house for them.

      • I haven’t found any natural holes at my house. A neighbor, at the end of the street, had a wooden mail box 4×4 post with holes about between 3/5″-1/2″ that she thinks were made by a carpenter bee.

  4. Pingback: Carpenter Bees, Help! | semenza

  5. I’ve read the size to make the hole is 1/4″. Drill the hole only 1 or 2 inches and let the Carpenter bee continue the excavation work, because they will go in and bore another tunnel at a 90 degree angle.I’m hoping this will work, as I have just drilled a dozen or more holes in an old log and set it near the area where the carpenter bees are gathered on my house siding.

  6. I’ve just want to say Thank you! I have been searching for a while now on a positive and cruelty free way to get the carpenter bees in my porch to move somewhere else. I am going to try to build some bee houses myself this year and see if it helps. Thanks again.

  7. Dear Lianne,
    I noticed two carpenter bees hanging around my mom’s porch. I caught one in a net to look at before letting it go. It returned soon after its release. I was hoping to distract them from the house to another location. I was looking for ideas and came across your site. I would love them to stay around but not on my mom’s house. Wondering if I drilled holes in a maple tree they would work? Has anyone had any success with houses?

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