Let us answer all your questions! From native bees vs. honey bees, where to put your Beestra, how to attract wild bees, and more.
Don't see your question here? Email us at email@example.com and we'll help you out.
Isn't that cardboard? Won't my Beestra get ruined when it rains?
No need to worry! The Beestra is constructed from water-resistant mineral-coated corrugated fiber board. Basically, the water just flows right off of it. Any water that does soak in quickly evaporates due to the highly breathable material. Here in the Ozarks we get a lot of rain, and in our 22 test Beestras from 2020, exactly ZERO straws got wet!
After a year of being outside, your Beestra may look a little worse for wear. This is your reminder to recycle or compost it and set up a new one nearby.
How do I attract bees?
There's no better way to attract bees than to plant lots and lots of native flowers. Check out this guide from the Xerces Society to get some ideas on what to plant and where to find seeds. This is one of the most important things you can do to support pollinators!
Bees also love mud. That's what mason bees use to build their home. Therefore, it's a good idea to install your Beestra somewhere near a source of water or consistently wet ground. A patch of dirt with a hose set on it from time to time will do!
My Beestra was out all year and I didn't find any bees, what's going on?
Your Beestra just gave you some very important information: the surrounding area is most likely unattractive to bees.
Don't worry! There lots of things you can do to fix this. First and foremost, plant a lot of native flowers. This could also include fruit trees, berry bushes, and vegetables. If you don't have blooms, you won't find bees. And remember: native bees don't like to travel very far, so the closer the better.
We also encourage people to have a source of mud or moisture nearby so mason bees don't have to look too hard for building materials. They cap their tubes with mud and you can provide this by simply digging a small, narrow hole in the ground nearby.
You can also take a look at pesticide spraying practices in your neighborhood. In addition, keep in mind that perfectly manicured lawns are food deserts to bees. Let your yard grow out a little and you'll notice a difference.
Most importantly, don't give up! Put up another Beestra and try again next year. If you find more bees year after year, you'll know that your efforts are paying off.
I heard bee hotels are dangerous. How is the Beestra any different?
Where do we start?
The Beestra is a completely novel approach to "bee hotels." Most bee hotels are made to be used year after year. Though this sounds great in theory, in practice this means that deadly parasites move in and take over as time passes. This leads many well-meaning bee enthusiast to accidentally kill their beloved bees! Here is a great article explaining this in detail.
The Beestra, on the other hand, is single-use only. It sits outside for one year collecting and harboring bees and then gets recycled/composted and replaced the next year. There's no clean-up and no danger of parasite infestation.
And that's just the beginning! Check out our Beestra page to learn more.
Will I get honey from my Beestra?
Nope! Native bees don't produce honey. You'll have to get yours from a farmer's market or a beekeeping friend. On the plus side, that means there's no sticky upkeep or cleanup.
What's the difference between native bees and honey bees?
Honey bees are eusocial, meaning they live in hives with overlapping generations functioning as a large family unit. Native bees, AKA wild bees, are solitary. They still live very close to other bees, but they don't have colonies like honey bees. They find their own food, build their own nests, and don't interact with each other too much beyond mating. They are not aggressive or territorial, unlike honey bees.
Crucially, native bees are, well, native. That means that they have evolved to pollinate native plants with extreme efficiency. There are well over 4,000 species of native bees in the U.S. alone, including different types of mason bees, leaf cutter bees, carpenter bees, and bumblebees. Honey bees come from Europe and Africa, and are technically invasive in the States. We still love them, but they are poorly equipped for pollinating many of our American flowers. They are simply no substitute for native bees.
The Beestra is designed to house native bees, specifically mason bees and leaf cutter bees. There are other tube-nesting wild bees that may move in but these two are the most common. It will not work for honey bees.
Why do native bees need our help, and why should I care?
Over 50% of pollinator species in the U.S. are in a state of decline. Unsustainable operations like widespread pesticide use, habitat destruction, and climate change have decimated their populations. That's bad news if you like food, flowers, and pretty much anything else that grows!
Native bees in particular are essential for many foods we depend on, such as fruits, nuts, and livestock feed such as alfalfa. In fact, they are responsible for pollinating an estimated 25-35% of our food supply! Without native bees, our dinner plates would be sad, beige affairs.
When should I install my Beestra?
A good rule of thumb is that whenever flowers are blooming, bees are active. This usually means that spring and summer are good times to install your Beestra. To get the most bang for your buck, install it in early spring once the temperatures are consistently 55 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. This way, you'll get the whole scope of bee species: typically, mason bees in the spring and leafcutter bees in the summer.
Where should I install my Beestra?
Here's some basic guidelines:
Near flowers! The more the better. For best results have them within 300 feet of the Beestra.
Near mud or water. Again, try to have it within 300 feet.
Facing south or southeast. We have found that bees tend to like morning sun, although results can vary.
At whatever height is comfortable for you. Bees aren't too picky when it comes to height, so place it in a way that lets you look inside easily!
Near your old Beestra. If your old Beestra had bees last year, place the new one nearby. There are 2 reasons for this: 1, if you had success last year then you already have a great spot picked out. 2, newly-emerging bees don't want to look far for a new home. Placing a new Beestra near them improves the chances that they'll move right in.
Who should buy a Beestra?
Anyone who loves bees and has a little green space! A necessary component of raising bees is having flowering plants nearby, ideally within 300 feet. The more the better. You don't need to be a farmer to make use of a Beestra, but it won't do very well if there aren't plants nearby.
Why would I want multiple Beestras?
You mean, besides feeling really good about getting a whopping 20% discount when you buy a 6-pack?
Well, there's a few reasons you might consider getting a few. They make great gifts for your green-thumbed friends. If you're a big planner, you might get several in anticipation of replacing old ones every year. Maybe you have an apple orchard or blueberry patch and want to invite big-time pollination.
If you're anything like us here at Rockspan Farm, you may be curious to know which parts of your property are better hosts for bees. We think of raising bees as a grand experiment, and we are always putting Beestras in different locations and orientations to find out which places bees like best. Sometimes the results are surprising and defy conventional wisdom. Bees are mysterious creatures, after all!
What do I do with my Beestra when flowering season is over?
Sometime in autumn, bee activity will stop. At this point, you have a couple options.
First, you could simply leave it outside. Put the SpringBoard over the front for extra protection. In the spring, when temps are heating up, poke out the hole in the SpringBoard. Bees will emerge, see the sunlight, and exit the Beestra. When they've all left you can simply recycle, compost, or dispose of your Beestra.
If you do this, bear in mind that your Beestra will look pretty beat up by spring. We think of this as your yearly reminder to take it down and replace it. Do not try to use it again as it is only built to last one year.
Second, you could put the SpringBoard on your Beestra and take it inside to a cool, dry place. Some people use their shed or even a refrigerator. When temperatures rise and the threat of frost is over, set your Beestra outside and poke out the hole in the SpringBoard.
Whichever you choose, be sure to have a fresh Beestra installed nearby so the bees have a home waiting for them!
What is a SpringBoard and why is it a big deal?
As our latest innovation, the SpringBoard is a new feature that brings the Beestra experience full circle.
A defining aspect of the Beestra is that it is not reused year after year. It's important that when your bees emerge from your Beestra in the spring, they do not return to the old Beestra to build new nests.
Conventional wisdom says to place your hibernating bees in a cardboard box with a hole drilled into it so that bees can follow the light to get out, and won't be tempted to go back in. We simplified this process by turning the Beestra into its very own "emergence box."
When the bees are no longer pollinating, starting in the fall, you place your SpringBoard in the front of the Beestra. This provides some added protection against the elements and predators during winter. In the spring, you punch out the hole in the SpringBoard, allowing the bees to escape. This ensures that instead of returning to the old Beestra, they will build their nests in the new Beestra that you have already installed nearby (we hope).
My Beestra looks beat-up after leaving it outside all year. Is that supposed to happen?
In a word, yes.
The Beestra is made from nontoxic materials that are designed to be compostable and recyclable. It may start breaking down a bit early. That's your reminder to take it down and replace it with a new one.
If you'd like to avoid this, try installing your Beestra under an overhang or in some other protected place. This will greatly slow down the weathering process.
Does the Beestra come with bees?
Bees are not included. The Beestra is designed to attract existing bees in your area. If you are in a thriving ecosystem, you will probably find that more tubes fill with bees. If you don't get very many, that may be a clue that your area needs a little help. This could be in the form of planting more flowers, starting a community garden, or spreading awareness about the dangers of spraying pesticides.
Have more ideas about how to make your environment more bee-friendly? Let us know! Send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org or find us on social media @beefosterco.
I had the perfect spot picked out and bees still didn't move in. What gives?
In our experience, bees are weird. They don't always behave the way you'd expect. You can improve your chances of getting bees with lots of flowers, no pesticides, etc, but there's no guarantee they'll stick around. We encourage people to try a few different spots on their property and see what works best. It's not always the obvious choice!