Osmia Phenology Program! -- Discover Life

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Osmia Phenology Program

Please join us in this scientific study to understand the impact of climate change and other factors on nest timing and geographic distribution in the lovely group of native bees known as Osmia (pronounced OZ-mee-uh).

Arilus cristatus
Photograph by Sam Pickering
Arilus cristatus (Linne, 1763)
Wheel bug nails non-native bee


To participate in the Osmia Phenology Program (OPP) you need to do two things:

  1. Construct 1 or more bottles of 10 Osmia nest tubes (we prefer at least 2, thank you).
  2. Take pictures of the nests each day from March through the end of May (end of June in the far north and in the Rocky Mountains). Directions are BELOW.

Your participation helps track global climate change, plant nectar flow, helps bee populations, and... its just plain interesting.

Materials Needed

  • 3 half-liter (500ml) common plastic water bottle (2 to use, 1 for mistakes)
  • Duct Tape
  • Scissors
  • Foam board of some kind (1-2 inches thick, can be Styrofoam packing material, foam insulating material, either purchased or recycled from boxes containing appliances or electronics)
  • Permanent Marker
  • 20 Bee Tubes and 20 Bee Tube Liners (these can be ordered from Sam Droege sdroege@usgs.gov)
  • Knife
  • Pins

Making the Oz Observation Nests

Watch our How-to Video

Written Instructions

  1. Cut off the top of the water bottle at the point where the bottle flares out and reaches its full width
  2. Dry out any remaining water, if it was a soft drink bottle then rinse it out
  3. Put the open end of the bottle on the foam board
  4. Mark the outline with your marker
  5. With your knife or scissors cut along the line
  6. Check that your foam plug fits SNUGGLY into the water bottle opening and you can push it about 1 inch back …It is important that it should fit snuggly and not flop over
  7. Number the outside of your bee tubes sequentially starting with 1 and ending with tube 20
  8. Make 1 hole in the center of the foam that is a LITTLE bit smaller than the diameter of the tube. You want the tube to fit in snuggly and not fall out
  9. Similarly, make 9 notches in the foam evenly around the OUTSIDE of the foam. These notches should be a little bit smaller than the tube, so again, the tube fits snuggly, sandwhiched between the foam and the wall of the bottle and doesn't fall out. Note that the only tube that is actually in the interior of the styrofoam is the first one you put in the very middle
  10. Write the number of the tube above or next to each hole so that the numbers are readable when the nest structure is on its side
  11. Put in the tubes (with most water bottles this will mean that the tube goes all the way to the bottom (or back depending on which way you are holding the bottle) of the bottle and sticks out of the foam an inch or two)
  12. Push 4 pins in through the side of the bottle into the foam to keep it in place
  13. Wrap the WHOLE bottle in duct tape to keep the sun from shining in
  14. Poke holes in the bottom and sides to let any trapped moisture out
  15. Do this all again for a second bottle, but remember to number it 11 - 20

Two completed nests

Same nests, side shot

Placing the nests

  • Nests should be placed together and so they are resting on their sides
  • They should be in a place that rarely if ever gets rain (e.g., under the eaves, on a window sill, under a sign, on the underside of a leaning tree)
  • They should be in a place where you can easily and safely take a picture of tubes
  • They should be firmly attached so the wind doesn't blow them down (duct tape!)
  • Nests can be in direct sun, but they seem to do best when in the shade or with just morning light

Updated: 4 March, 2010
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