Building and Decorating “Bee Condominiums”

Submitted by: Ruth O’Neill

Grade levels targeted: 2-6
Number of students:  25

Estimated preparation time required:

One hour to cut log / branch sections and drill holes
15 minutes to assemble materials on table


Bees are needed by many garden plants to produce seeds and, sometimes, the plant parts that we eat.  In most cases bees do the pollination although other animals such as butterflies and moths contribute to garden pollination. 

Bees often go to a lot of trouble to build comfortable nests, because that is where their offspring, or larvae, are reared.  For example, some bee species line their nests with carefully cut leaf pieces precisely glued together.  Others collect soft plant down.  Some bees use dried mud or plant resin to seal their offspring safely within the nests while they grow.  Protected inside their nests, the larvae feed on “bee bread”, a mixture of pollen and nectar collected for them from flowers. 

Adult bees are very busy collecting pollen and nectar to bring back to their nests for their larvae.  In the process bees transport pollen on their bodies from one flower to another, resulting in “cross-pollination” between flowers.  For many plants, this is the only way they can produce seeds and fruits.  For example, squashes, cucumbers, strawberries, and raspberries are cross-pollinated by bees.

Just like people build bird nest boxes to attract nesting birds, we can attract wild bees to our yards.  One way to do this is to provide attractive bee housing.

Different types of bees like different types of nests.  Honey bees like hollow tree trunks and caves.  Bumble bees sometimes nest in old mouse burrows underground.  Many types of “digger bees” tunnel into the soil to make their nests.

Other bees like to nest in old beetle burrows in wood.  It’s easy to build bee condominiums that attract this type of bee, using fence posts or cut logs. 

Bees use their vision to help them find their nests when they are returning with pollen, nectar, and various nesting materials they have collected.  Often what they are carrying is very heavy for them, so helping them out by making the nest easy to see will make their jobs much easier.



[Build above-ground nesting blocks with lots of different hole sizes to attract bees that nest in old beetle burrows in nature].  Decorate the fronts of the nests with painted designs to help bees find their way home.

Materials:  Do not use pressure-treated lumber – the chemicals they are treated with are pesticides, and are thus potentially harmful to nesting bees.



Cost Each (Approximate)

Cost Total (Approximate)

6x6-in2 untreated pine, 8’ length


$ 10.00

$ 20.00





Scrap logs and branches, bark left on


No cost

No cost





Zero-VOC latex interior paint, 5 colors


$ 15.00

$ 90.00





Washable tempura paint*


$  3.00

$ 15.00









*Not weatherproof




Preparation before class:

  • Wood needs to be sawed into 8” sections ahead of time
  • On one cut end, drill a cluster of 4 – 6 holes about 1 inch apart.  Hole diameters:: ¼”, 3/8”, and 7/16”.  Hole depth:  about 5” - 6”

In class, ask children can paint colorful designs around the entrance holes, making each entrance unique – looking.  This will help nesting females see their nest entrances as they fly in with pollen and nectar or with nest-building materials.  The better able the female is to recognize her nest, the less confusion and conflict there will be with the owners of neighboring nests.