Heather Harvey started Bees Gone Wild in West Lafayette, Indiana to encourage people to adopt native bees into their gardens, but she’s discovering that most people need basic information about pollination and the role bees play in producing our food before they can even begin to consider setting up a wild bee nest.
Backyard bee houses or bee hotels have become so popular that large garden distributors have started selling quickly made nesting habitats. When these products are made from drilled blocks of wood or bamboo tubes, they actually do more harm than good for local hole-nesting bees. These companies intentions are in the right place but they lack the knowledge of the pests and diseases that can harm bees.
We hear a common argument or question about raising hole-nesting bees: In nature, these bees nest in holes in wood, why don’t I just leave them alone?
The nesting holes we are providing for bees in our bee hotels and bee houses are really different than the nesting holes found in nature. We can't build a completely natural situation for our hole-nesting bees, who are wild creatures after all, so we need to learn to maintain our man-made houses for managed wild bees.
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.
Last winter I was looking into the possibility of starting a bee hive as a tool to pollinate my organic kitchen garden, when I was made aware of solitary bees and the role they play as the great pollinators of North America. Without the need for expensive equipment such as hives, protective clothing, honey-related appurtenances and the time commitment necessary to keep honey bees, providing a habitat for solitary bees seemed like an easier, less expensive and less time consuming alternative.
Dr. Jim Cane of the USDA Agricultural Research Service has recently shared with us the following excerpt of his recent work with native bees that exclusively pollinate squash. An article by Science Daily also discusses the findings showing that squash-pollinating bees migrated with the spread of squash agriculture across North America.
Dr. Cane has been interested in comparative studies of solitary bees for 30 years, beginning with the evolutionary origins and use of lipid exocrine secretions to attract mates, repel predators, supplement larval diets, and waterproof/disinfect their nests.
The following story was shared as part of our celebration of National Pollinator Week, June 20-26, 2016. We applaud the efforts of Beth Murphy, President, and Jennifer Fenderbosch, Vice-President of Avon-on-the-Lake Garden Club for building solitary bee habitat throughout the City of Avon Lake, Ohio. Crown Bees hopes that their story inspires other communities to raise and support native bees.
Mason bees are wonderful additions to extension service programs. The programs can evaluate the efficiency of mason bees, learn and teach about mason bee life cycles, and make recommendations to farmers and gardeners about the ability of mason bees to pollinate in their region. Mason bees and honey bees can work together in farms and mason bees have been shown to actually improve the pollination behavior of honey bees.