Every year we celebrate mason bees with a mason bee cocoon Harvest Party held at our office and warehouse in Woodinville, WA. Everyone is welcome to attend, even if you've never raised mason bees before. Our goal is to teach why we advocate for the harvest of mason bee cocoons and how to harvest, wash, and store cocoons.
Debbie served snacks and hot cider but this is no ordinary party. This is a working party and opening mason bee nesting materials can be dirty work. After months of protection from rain, the mason bee mud has dried and as materials are opened the dry mud gets on everything. Harvested cocoons are then washed with Tim and Kyle's help in a bleach solution to help ensure that chalkbrood and pollen mites won't spread.
The work is messy but it's fun and interesting. Sometimes other bees find your nesting holes and we are all learning together how to raise these wild bees. Sometimes the other bees that find your bee house are actually wasps that are looking for the same sized nesting holes as what mason bees use. These wasps are also solitary and they are beneficial because they are hunting pests like grubs (and even spiders) in your garden. Solitary beneficial wasps either overwinter as long bumpy white larvae or as adults in a thin veil of a silky cocoon. Set these beneficial insects aside in their own container and keep an eye on them to watch their development. We'll write up more about how to take care of solitary wasps, soon.
If you're local, consider visiting us during our harvest party next October! You can learn how to open your own nesting materials or you can volunteer to help others harvest their cocoons. It's a fun day with a lot of interesting bugs tucked in their nesting holes.