- What to Expect
What to Expect
Raising hole-nesting native bees is easy and fun once you get going, but for beekeepers just starting out it can be a little daunting. The following are some tips for what you will see and experience. If you don't find the answer to your question here, try our Frequently Asked Questions page.
- Watching the bees emerge from their cocoons is a lot of fun. Male bees emerge first and they either fly away to wait for females at prime locations or they stay near the nesting holes and wait for females to emerge. When females emerge they need to feed to gain energy, and they also need time to get to know their area and find a suitable place to nest. Your bees will use about 2.5 acres of territory, so if you start with only 20 mason bee cocoons, don’t be surprised if you can’t easily spot them at work. It’s like trying to find a raisin in a 5000 sq. ft. home.
- Female bees emerge up to two weeks later than males, and once a female emerges she heads off to mate. It can then take a few days for her to return to the nesting house to begin laying eggs. Seeing into the back of the nesting holes isn’t easy, but if you’d like to you can shine a flashlight into the nest at night. You might not see progress right away because it takes many trips to gather pollen, nectar, and nest-building materials. Be patient and one day you’ll be pleasantly surprised to see nesting holes filled with a capped ends.
- A common frustration is that your bees don’t behave the way that you had hoped. We all have to remember that insects are wild creatures and that even domesticated honey bees will abandon their hives at will. Even though we have come to view our mason and leafcutter bees as pets they are independent and will leave if the conditions aren’t right. We do our best to help you set up your bee habitat and learn how to manage it. On rare occasions, though, the bees simply up and go somewhere else.
Mason bees will fly elsewhere if they can't find available clayey mud and you can fix this problem by providing them with mason bee mud. The smell of chemicals from a nearby yard, while not your fault, can also drive native bees to fly elsewhere safe. Honey and bumble bees that range far may still fly through the smell of chemicals, but not short ranged bees.
- Congratulations, your nesting house attracted one of your many local native bees. Word must have gotten out that you’ve made a good habitat. The materials they use for filling capped ends may be different than what you’d expect to see. Check out or [Capped Ends] guide for help identifying what might be living in your nesting house. It might not even be a bee. Just as there are social and solitary bees, there are solitary wasps that are less aggressive than social wasps. Many solitary wasps are beneficial predators that feed garden pests to their young.
We encourage you to place out holes of different sizes from 4mm through 8mm, which should house just about all hole-nesting bees and wasps. We created the pollination pack for hole-nesting habitat of wild bees and beneficial wasps.
- Yes. There’s a reason we call solitary bees “the gentle bees”. The best time to hold a bee is while it is emerging from its cocoon. Carefully select a cocoon that shows signs of a bee chewing its way out: you will either see its mandibles or hear a little crunching and chewing sound. Once the bee has made a hole large enough it will wiggle free. The newly emerged bee will clean itself and crawl on your hand. Once the bee has enough energy from the heat of the sun or your hand it will get ready to fly away. We don’t recommend holding every cocoon as they emerge because, though it is fun, it is best to allow the bees get to know their nesting house and its location well before they fly away (you want them to easily find their way back).
Please do be cautious, as all female bees can sting. Solitary bees have nothing to defend and so will mostly only sting when their life is threatened. The sting, while startling, will diminish quickly.
You may also pick up a bee that appears to be cold or sleepy. Bees are cold-blooded and this means that they need the heat of the sun to give them the energy they need to fly. Just be gentle and don’t squish the bee.