Annual Mason Bee Harvest Party at Crown Bees
Community gathers to harvest bee cocoons, increasing local pollination and food production.
On Saturday, October 12, about 200 native bee raisers swarmed upon Crown Bees' headquarters to harvest thousands of mason bee cocoons for better bee heath in their annual community event, the Mason Bee Harvest Party.
During the 2019 Mason Bee Harvest Party, Crown Bees experts worked alongside community guests to open nesting materials like natural reeds, paper tubes, and wood trays filled with next year's baby mason bees. Mason bee pests and diseases, healthy bee cocoons, and mud were separated, the cocoons were cleaned in water baths, dried, and sprayed with a natural cleaning compound called Clean Bee. Clean Bee is designed by Woodinville's BrioTech and is proven to treat damaging viruses and spores, yet is harmless to the bees.
Gardeners left the Mason Bee Harvest Party with clean, healthy cocoons and thousands of extra mason bees were exchanged for beekeeping products for next year's busy pollination season. These harvested cocoons are cared for overwinter by Crown Bees and then redistributed to the region's farms, yards, and gardens in the following spring.
North America is home to about 4,000 species of native bees and most people are surprised to learn that none of our native bees make honey. The first European settlers brought European honey bees for both their honey and beeswax production.
About 25% of North American native bees nest in above-ground nesting holes, like reeds or beetle holes in trees. Humans have learned to provide attractive nesting holes for the bees to propagate in, which encourages more pollen being spread in their yards by nesting mason bees. Mason bees are super pollinators and they help cherries, apples, strawberries, pears, berries, and nut plants to grow more fruit.
Hole-nesting bees build their nests by gathering pollen and nectar into a pollen loaf.
An egg is laid on the pollen loaf, and each nesting chamber is sealed with a protective wall to help prevent pest intrusion. The eggs laid at the end of one season will hatch the following year.
Gardeners provide bee hotels for nesting habitat for local native bees.
However, with so many nesting holes in a single location, pests are attracted to the hotel and the pest population also grows. Some pests eat a bee's gathered pollen as they sneak in and lay their eggs within the pollen loaf before the chamber is closed off. Other pests are carnivorous and actually eat the developing bees. In the spring, both pests and the surviving bees emerge to start life anew.
Harvesting bee cocoons separates pests and diseases that would otherwise harm the surviving bees when they hatch the following year. The contamination of new nesting materials and the flowers of surrounding plants is also greatly reduced by following this process.
Crown Bees founded the commercial mason bee organization, Orchard Bee Association, and helped develop industry-standard practices which include managing common pests by harvesting and washing mason bee cocoons.
You can learn more about raising mason bees and harvesting bee cocoons, or how to start your own bee hotel by browsing our website.