Where Our Mason Bees Come From
We take great pride in providing you with healthy mason bees specific to your region to give both you and the bees the best chance for success!
Why mason bees?
Mason bees have certain advantages over other managed bee species, such as:
- The non-aggressive behavior of mason bees makes them safe around kids and pets! Mason bees are solitary, meaning they do not have a single queen, do not live in a colony, and do not produce honey. Without the need to protect a hive, mason bees are gentle and rarely sting (on the rare occasion they do, it's comparable to a mosquito bite).
- Mason bees are among the earliest bee species to emerge in the spring, making them essential for spring crops. Mason bees forage in low light, cool temps, and wet weather, whereas honey bees tend to be fair weather pollinators. On average, mason bees forage 2x longer per day than honey bees.
- The foraging behavior of mason bees makes them super pollinators. Honey bees gently land on blossoms and collect pollen on their bodies and store it in saddlebags on their hind legs. This method doesn’t allow for effective pollination. Mason bees, on the other hand, belly-flop onto flowers spreading pollen everywhere. The pollen sticks all over their bodies like Velcro and is more likely to fall off on different flowers, aiding in pollination.
- Mason bees pollinate around 95% of the flowers they visit, whereas honey bees generally only pollinate about 5% of the flowers they visit.
- Mason bees facilitate cross-pollination! Mason bees forage from tree to tree and row to row, facilitating cross-pollination, whereas honey bees tend to stick to one tree.
What mason bee species do we work with?
We work with the two most commonly managed species of mason bee, the Blue Orchard Bee and the Japanese Orchard Bee (AKA Hornfaced Bee). Both species are highly efficient spring pollinators and are alike in the types of crops they pollinate and the way they construct their nests. The specific species of Mason Bee that you will receive from us is dependent on your location.
Blue Orchard Bee, Osmia lignaria
The Blue Orchard Bee, or "BOB" for short, is the most commonly managed mason bee. The BOB is a temperate species native to most western states from southern Alaska to California and eastward to Texas and Montana - and most eastern states from Maine south to northern Georgia (different subspecies). Currently, only the western subspecies of the BOB are commercially available from bee producers.
Japanese Orchard Bee (AKA Hornfaced Bee), Osmia cornifrons
Common throughout the Midwestern and Eastern United States, the Japanese Orchard Bee, or "JOB" for short, is better suited to humid environments than the BOB.
The Japanese Orchard Bee was introduced to the U.S. from Japan in 1977 by the USDA Agricultural Resource Service to improve the pollination of fruit trees, such as apples, cherries, pears, and peaches. Since their introduction, these bees have been naturalized in the United States and are widely used to supplement or replace the managed European honey bee for fruit and nut tree pollination.
Where do we source our mason bees?
The majority of our mason bees come from our dedicated bee-raising community through their participation in our Bee Buy Back and Bee Farmer programs.
When you participate in our Bee Buy Back program, you help increase pollination and food production across the country by allowing us to provide region-specific mason bees to mason bee raisers.
It works like this:
1. Each fall, our community of gardeners and farmers sells us their extra mason bee cocoons.
2. Each cocoon is treated and examined on a light table to remove pests, parasites, and pollutants.
3. Cocoons are sorted by region and overwintered in our temperature-controlled coolers.
4. When you order from us, you'll receive bees specific to your region to give them the best chance of survival.
5. We'll send you tips/reminders in our monthly Bee Mail newsletter to help you successfully raise your bees.
Sell your extra bees back to us in the fall and help increase natural pollination and food production across the country.
Our Bee Farmer program recruits qualified bee raisers to help us raise healthy mason bees in specific regions across the United States.
It works like this:
1. We supply healthy mason bee cocoons and nesting holes to get you started. You can use your own bee house or purchase our Tower Bee House at a reduced price!
2. We'll connect you with a Neighborhood Coordinator to help distribute/collect the bees and nesting materials and answer all your bee-raising questions.
3. You provide a healthy lawn or garden with the resources that mason bees need to thrive: sufficient pollen and nectar sources, a continuous source of moist, clayey mud, and an area free of toxic chemicals and pesticides.
4. Your excess mason bees are re-homed to other gardeners in similar regions.
Our Bee Farmer program is region-specific and is currently at capacity. New regions/openings will be announced in our monthly Bee Mail newsletter, so if you're interested in becoming a Bee Farmer in the future, please sign-up for our Bee Mail newsletter.
Depending on the year, we may also source our mason bees from vetted suppliers across the United States. We use multiple suppliers to ensure the bees you receive both meet our quality control standards and are specific to your region.
How do we ensure we provide healthy mason bees?
As the demand for mason bees is increasing, responsible bee raising and management practices are critical to ensure the health and sustainability of orchard bee populations.
To provide you with healthy mason bees, we:
- Use meticulous harvesting techniques to remove pests, parasites, and pollutants.
- Clean all cocoons with Clean Bee to eradicate any diseases that may have clung to the cocoon wall.
- Overwinter our mason bees in temperature-controlled coolers to make sure they retain their fat stores over the cooler months.
- Sort our mason bee cocoons by region to ensure you'll receive bees that originated in your area when you order from us. Sorting gives the bees the best chance of survival based on the local climate and reduces the risk of disease and other pests.
- Educate and support our bee-raising community on research-based best practices, bee-safe products, and the importance of harvesting and nest management through our online Bee Knowledge resource center, monthly Bee Mail newsletter, and blog posts.
Our bees are OBA Certified Sustainable Bees!
Our bees are certified by the Orchard Bee Association (OBA), which means we meet OBA's sustainable propagation and management practices such as control of pests and chalkbrood, best practices for shipping live mason bee cocoons, managing and keeping records of populations from different regions, and sustainable nesting practices.