Mason Bee Care
Your bee house is set up, the weather is warming, your fruit blooms are open, and your mason bee mud supply is ready – what happens when mason bees start flying?
This stage of raising mason bees is what I like to call Wait & Watch and it’s the best part of raising spring mason bees.
Blue orchard mason bees (Osmia lignaria) and horned-face mason bees (Osmia cornifrons) both only produce one generation of bees per year. Knowing this fact makes it easier for us to protect the developing larvae from one of the biggest threats that hole-nesting bees face: gnat-sized parasitic wasps.
One of the many stressors that today's bees face is a loss of flowering habitat. An easy way to increase and improve habitat is to convert our grass lawns, which to a bee is a food desert, to flowering bee lawns.
Raising spring mason bees is a growing trend among backyards across the country.
Recently, local news station King 5 visited Crown Bees headquarters to learn about our mason bees and how they are a part of a novel garden to farm to table movement.
Blue orchard mason bees (Osmia lignaria) are native bees that are active in the spring and are the perfect pollinators for blueberry fields.
Emerging from their cocoons in the spring, they fly in cooler and wetter weather than honey bees. Instead of living in a hive, mason bees live in pre-made holes and every female bee takes care of her own nest.
In the spring, female mason bees protect each nesting chamber with a wall of clayey mud. They're named after masons for a good reason and they're picky about the mud they need. If mason bees can't find clayey mud nearby their bee house, they simply won't nest and will fly away to find another site.
Setting Out Spring Mason Bee Cocoons Releasing, or setting out, spring mason bee cocoons is easy and there are a few guidelines that you should follow to keep the bees happy and healthy. Remember that mason bees need morning sun, open blooms, and nearby clayey mud to nest!
Native hole-nesting bees, just like any creature, have their own set of diseases and pests that, when left unchecked, can harm or kill them. Nesting holes should be opened once a year to remove diseases like chalkbrood (a deadly fungal infection) and pests like pollen mites (they eat the pollen loaf before the larvae can). At the very least, fresh nesting holes should be provided every year.
It's the time of year to talk about the bees and the bees! Even though the world is home to a huge diversity of bee species, they all share a common feature - mother bees are able to choose the sex of each egg! Learn how sex determination works and why we all need to avoid neonic pesticides.
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.
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.