Unharvested reed above a harvested reed

Harvesting from Natural Reeds

1) Pinch the mud-capped end between your fingers and the reed will start to split. Don’t worry, there is no cocoon at the open end of the reed.

2) Pry the reed apart along the split and use a Phillips head screwdriver or popsicle stick to gently remove cocoons. 

Squeeze reed at mud cap Pull the reed apart Remove cocoons from reed
Unharvested BeeTube above a harvested BeeTube

Harvesting from BeeTubes

1) Tear or snip one end of the BeeTube and it will begin to unravel.

2) If a cocoon is stuck at the back end of the BeeTube, gently push it out from the pinhole side using an opened paperclip.

 

Cut into the tube at the mud-capped end with scissorsUnwrap the tube and remove cocoons
Unharvested BeeTube and insert above a harvested insert

Harvesting from BeeTubes & Easy-Tear Inserts

1) Remove the insert by pulling on the outside edge of the white insert. You may need to use a pair of pliers to pull the insert out.

2) Tear or snip one end of the Insert and it will easily unravel. Use your fingers to gently separate mason bee cocoons from the Insert.

Pro Tip: Got lots of Inserts? Soak the Inserts in a warm water solution to loosen the glue. Do not soak the Inserts longer than 30 minutes.

Cut into the insert with scissors Unwrap the insert and remove cocoons

cocoons in wood traysInsert screwdriver at an angle to gently scrape under the cocoons from the wood trays

Harvesting from Reusable Wood Trays

1) Remove the big green rubber bands and the cardboard backing (save the cardboard to reassemble the trays).

2) Lift up the first tray and using a Phillips head screwdriver or popsicle stick, gently remove cocoons and mud walls. Keep your removal tool at a 45-degree angle.

3) Check both sides of the nesting trays for cocoons.

4) Brush away any pollen mites and mason bee frass. If you found chalkbrood, apply Clean Bee to affected areas.

5) Reassemble nesting trays by aligning the side notches, ensuring that the nesting holes are snug and there are no gaps.

6) Store over winter with cardboard backing and rubber bands attached to trays.

 

 

Sort the Cocoons from Debris

Do a quick sort of cocoons from the other items, like mud walls, pollen loaves, and pests. Toss anything that’s not a cocoon. Count your cocoons and start planning how many mason bees you’ll want for next year. If you have some extra cocoons and would like to exchange them with us, check out our BeeBuyBack program.


 

BeeBuyBack

  • Fill out the form, put your extra cocoons in a box, and mail them to us in exchange for a Crown Bees gift card or check!
  • If you wish to participate in the BeeBuyBack program, don’t wash the cocoons you send to us — we’ll do it at our facility.
 

How to Wash Mason Bee Cocoons

Mason bee cocoons are waterproof and we recommend washing the cocoons in cold water. We recommend using Clean Bee as a safer alternative to bleach.

    • Make a bleach bath of 1 Tbl bleach to 1 cup water (1 cup bleach to 1-gallon water for large batches).
    • Vigorously stir the cocoons for 1-3 minutes. Healthy cocoons float and cocoons with holes may sink to the bottom.
    • Using a colander or sieve, rinse the cocoons with a bowl of fresh, cold water.
    • Remove the cocoons from the rinse bath and spread them out on towels to dry. Spray cocoons with Clean Bee to treat chalkbrood.
    • If you found chalkbrood in your wood trays, apply Clean Bee to the affected areas of your trays. Reassemble the trays and allow them to dry.

 

Winter Storage in a HumidiBee

    • Mason bee cocoons are waterproof and should be stored over the winter in your fridge and washed as needed. The consistent cold temperatures of your fridge help the mason bees conserve their fat stores over the winter. We recommend setting your fridge temperature to between 34F-40F(1-4C).
    • To prevent dehydration of mason bee cocoons, Crown Bees has developed the HumidiBee cocoon humidifier that retains moisture in today’s frost-free refrigerators. Place your clean and dry mason bee cocoons into the HumidiBee container and add a spoonful of water to the black HumidiBee pad.
      • If you’re storing your cocoons in a refrigerator that is not used very often, make sure to open it occasionally to release ethylene gas (produced by fruit like apples). 
    • Add about a tablespoon of water once a month to your filled HumidiBee container and wash cocoons as needed.
    • Mason bee cocoons can become moldy in the fridge and the source of mold is from cheese or other food. Treat mold by spraying cocoons and the HumidiBee container with Clean Bee. If mold is a persistent problem, place the HumidiBee container into a paper bag and close the top. Mold spores have a harder time penetrating the paper bag.
    • Sign up for BeeMail for monthly reminders to add water to your HumidiBee container!

 

Leafcutter Bee Cocoon Harvesting

Leafcutter bees overwinter as delicate larvae and leafcutter bee cocoons are best harvested in late winter or early spring. If you find leafcutter cocoons mixed in with your mason bee nesting material in the fall, simply store the leafcutter bee cocoons in a BeeGuard Bag in an unheated shed or garage until the following spring.

Your leafcutter nesting material can be stored, unopened, inside a BeeGuard Bag in a cool location from the time you notice a stop in leafcutter bee activity. This is usually late summer or early fall when the temperatures are consistently below 70F(21C). You can harvest your leafcutter cocoons about 6 weeks before your summer garden will begin blooming.

Follow the steps above for opening the nesting material. It’s the same process, but the cocoons are vibrantly colored with greens, yellows, reds, and pinks from leaves and petals.

After you have removed the cocoons from the nesting materials, do not wash them as the leaves are not waterproof. We don’t recommend storing leafcutter cocoons in the refrigerator because they are more susceptible to mold, it’s best to keep them in a BeeGuard Bag in an unheated basement, shed or garage for their hibernation.