Native Bee Network and 4-H

Ensure Bee Health


Native Bee Challenge

Crown Bees and 4-H are working together to empower 4-H youth to participate in the Native Bee Network (NBN).

4-H youth will set up their 4-H Native Bee Nests, watch native bee activity, and help find native hole-nesting bees to raise in nearby farms. Hole-nesting bee habitats are easy to build and move to nearby farms.

Local native bees are robust and research shows that farms and gardens with improved bee diversity grow more food. Bee diversity means raising and supporting many different kinds of bee species. Our NBN program focuses on discovering and finding native hole-nesting bees. We’re excited to team with the next generation of farmers and growers!

Your 4-H Native Bee Nest

To assemble your Native Bee Nest, first, make sure that the end cap is firmly attached to the flat end of the PVC pipe. The paper 4-H BeeTubes are open-ended on both sides and wild bees are more likely to nest when the back is closed. Use our Mason Bee Mud Mix to seal the back end with clayey mud. Slowly add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of water to the bag of mud mix and knead the water and dry mix together.

Spread the mud mix on a plate until it is about 0.25 inches thick. Insert each paper BeeTube into the mud mix and use a twisting motion to pick up the mud. The mud will shrink slightly as it dries so fill any air pockets with more mud.

Secure the paper nest tubes inside of your PVC nest by placing a stick or two into any loose spots inside the nest. The sticks will help keep the nest tubes inside your nest.

Each nest kit includes a Native Bee Network Sticker that provides a unique identification number for the NBN Map App and national database. Place the sticker on the side of your PVC nest and make sure it's visible when you set up the nest site.

Set Up Your 4-H Native Bee Nest

First, pick a spot for your bee nest that is close to flowers. Most native hole-nesting bees only fly about 300 ft to flowers from their nest every day. Edges between gardens and farms and natural habitat are excellent for finding wild bees.

Next, choose an orientation that faces the sun. Bees are cold-blooded and like south to southeast-facing locations with morning sun. If morning sun is not available, pick a direction that receives the most daylight throughout the day. Make sure that leaves or vines will not grow over your bee nest spot.

Attach your Native Bee Nest to a sturdy branch, tree trunk or along a fence. Hole-nesting bees do not like nesting sites that are blowing in the breeze. Hang the bee nest with a slight downward angle to help keep rain from pooling inside. Set up the bee nest with the longer edge of the PVC pipe on the top to act as a roof. Make sure that you can easily see your NBN sticker number.

1. Register Your 4-H Native Bee Nest

With an adult's help, use a smartphone to register your sticker’s unique NBN number in our national database. An email account is required for registration and program updates and instructions will be sent by email a few times a year.

On your smartphone, go to:

2. Sign in to the Native Bee Network Map App

It’s time to collect some location data after your NBN sticker number is registered. The NBN Map App will place your nest site location on the nationwide map. If you set up multiple nest sites, the map app will also help guide you back to each site.

On your smartphone, go to:

Take a picture of your installed Native Bee Nest with the sticker number clearly visible; in the NBN Map App, this is called the Nest Image. Enter the registered NBN Number and select “active in field” as the deployment status. Step back several feet and take another picture of the nest site, this second picture is called Location Image and it can help you find your nest site in the fall.

The Native Bee Network Timeline

Now that you’re all set up, here’s an overview of what you’ll do during the year.

Spring and Summer Set Up

  • Bees fly in the warm spring and summer months and this is the best time to set up your nest site.
  • Check out nesting activity at your bee nest and take some notes of what you see.

Fall Pick Up

  • Most hole-nesting bees stop nesting when the weather cools below 60F. Remove the bee nest site and store in a secure location with outdoor temps, like an unheated garage or shed. Storage will keep the developing bees safe from birds, spiders, ants, and earwigs.
  • Open the NBN Map App and change your nest site’s deployment status to Picked Up. After the status is changed you’ll be able to enter observations and notes about filled nesting tubes.
  • If you want, you can open one sample of nesting tubes to see what’s inside and add more notes to your nest site profile.

Next Spring and Summer

  • Set up your Native Bee Nest in the same location as the year before. You’re going to see if the same kinds of bees come back to the nest or if they decide to move to another location.

We will send program updates to registered email accounts about twice per year. The longer that you participate, the more information and data you will learn about your local native bees.

Need help or have questions? Email us: [email protected]

Crown Bees Programs