Posts Tagged ‘mason bees’

2830B Mason bee on Meadowfoam, 4-20-16 copy

Late April, for the first time ever, I start seeing Mason bees in the Meadowfoam.

3260 Mason bees + Guidance Mandala, 5-29-16

My sister is a watercolor artist. She gave me her Guidance Mandala because she knows I like bees. I realize Mason bees don’t fly too far from home, but bees need all the help they can get, so I hung it here near the Mason bee nesting blocks.

3257 Guidance Mandala, 5-29-16

A closer look at the Guidance Mandala. When Vikki paints a mandala she never knows where it will take her. During one of our weekly phone conversations she was inspired to add a circle of bees.

2503 Mason bees set up, 3-6-16, detailed

I set up the nesting blocks on March 6. Then I waited a good three weeks to see any activity. The cocoons had been in the refrigerator since October. You don’t want them emerging too soon because there won’t be enough to eat (or so I have read), but I always hold my breath hoping after five months of ‘chilling,’ they will emerge.

2587 Mason bee, long antenna-male 3-29-16 copy

Finally on March 28, I see a bee. This must be a male. Males have long antenna. They usually emerge first because they are laid last in the tubes (being expendable.) Predators will be able to reach them easily. 😦

2582 Mason bees emerging, 3-28-16 copy

I see them slowly ‘waking up.’ This could be a female. The antennae look shorter.

26 Mason bee tubes filled so far copy

May 19…I start to fill pretty smug. 26 tubes filled already…until I come across this post of Rusty Burlew (of Honeybeesuite) in Washington state.

mason-bee-housing

Rusty says one of these cans will fill up in about three days. I count the number of straws to realize there are close to 100 straws in each can. Either there are more Mason bees in her area or they like the straws in cans better. I’m gonna try this method next year. Photo reprinted with permission from Rusty Burlew.

3147A German wasp on nesting block copy

When I first saw this wasp go into a Mason bee nesting tube I was afraid it would start digging into the tubes. I asked Steve, of “In a beekeeper’s Garden” about this. His reply, “Your wasp is or has all the markings of a vespula germanica (german wasp) which lives in all the northern hemisphere, they are a social wasp so live in nests. they are great pest controllers eating caterpillars , insects and the odd bee (usually weak ones ) they won’t break into your bee tubes :)” In the video, I watch the German Wasp patrolling my garden. I watch until the wasp decides I haven’t gotten video permission from her and chases me away. 🙂

3274A Mason wasp? copy

I think this is a resting Potter Wasp. I’m not sure what it’s up to. While I was grabbing my camera it poked into the tube and then emerged for it’s camera debut.

3290 Plum tree loaded, 6-4-16JPG

Want some plums? It looks like the Mason bees have been busy. My Methley trees are loaded with plums. Here are some recipes from Glory Garden.

3260A Mason bees, late May

It’s late May…I haven’t seen any activity for awhile which probably means the Mason bees are finished pollinating for this year. The cocoons are in a very delicate stage right now. I’ll be storing them in a cool inside room to protect them from yellow jackets. In September or October, I’ll remove the tubes from the blocks to store in the frig until next March. (Maybe I’ll have some new housing by then.)

More about Mason bees

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March 6, 2014...Cocoons transferred from refrigerator to this "Launch Box," ready for action.

March 6, 2014…Cocoons transferred from refrigerator to this “Launch Box,” ready for action.  There should be about 100…

Launch box complete with about 100 cocoons.

Launch box complete with about 100 cocoons.

March 6, 2014...first set of Mason bee blocks set up on new shelf.

March 6, 2014…first set of Mason bee blocks set up on new shelf.

March 30, 2014...We have lift-off.  After 24 days of anxious waiting, we see a bee emerge.

March 30, 2014…We have lift-off. After 24 days of anxious waiting, we see a bee emerge.

I'm guessing this is a female.  I'm so relieved to see them, because after pulling them out of their tubes last year, I wondered if I had handled them too roughly.

HB says this is a male.  You can see a little yellow fuzz on the face and it has long antenna.  I’m soooo relieved to see bees, because after pulling them out of their tubes last year, I wondered if I had handled them too roughly.

March 30, 2014...I'm guessing this is a male mason bee.  The males live but a few days.  After they mate with the female, they die.

March 30, 2014…I’m guessing this is a male mason bee. (“Not so fast, Pat”.  HB says this is a FEMALE) The males live but a few days. After they mate with the female, they die.

A female has already chosen her first tube.

A female has already chosen her first tube.

Carolyn Prola, author and historian who lives in Myrtle Point, Oregon, shows off her Mason bees.  Her bees are ahead of mine by a week or two.  Carolyn is responsible for getting me back into Mason bees after a couple of false starts.

Last year’s Mason bee beginnings

Last year’s Mason bee successes

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March 23, 2013 ...mounted  on solar wall awaiting the hatching.

March 23, 2013…mounted on solar wall awaiting the hatching.  Home made wooden nesting boxes on bottom, purchased plastic box on top.

May 6, 2013...10 tubes filled so far.

May 6, 2013…10 tubes filled so far.

Mid June...18 Tubes are filled.  I should take them down carefully and place them in the house.  It looks like some predation is taking place.

Mid June…18 Tubes are filled.   It looks like some predation is taking place,  I should move them carefully to the house, standing them in the same orientation so they can finish their metamorphisis.

Mason bees are solitary bees but they also prefer to live close to each other.  The females each nest in their own tubes and do not help each other.  They only raise one generation a year.

The life cycle of a Mason bee according to Our Native Bees, A day or two after mating the females begin searching for new nest sites, such as insect holes bored in wood, plant canes, gaps in siding, masonry weep holes and, of course, Plan Bee Houses, if they’re lucky enough to find one!

Each female constructs her own brood cells using mud (Orchard Mason Bees) or leaf pieces (Leafcutter Bees) to partition each brood cell.  She forages for pollen and nectar, and makes a pollen-nectar loaf upon which she deposits one egg.  She then seals the cell with either mud or leaf pieces, and begins the process again, normally making 6 – 7 brood cells in a 6″ deep hole or nesting straw.  About one week later the eggs hatch and the larvae feed until they’ve eaten all their food supply, which takes approximately six weeks. By late June the larvae spin cocoons around themselves and have developed into pupae, or fully-formed adult bees, by late summer.  From September to April they remain dormant in a state of ‘diapause’ until the warm spring temps awaken them and the amazing cycle repeats itself.

By comparison, honeybee worker development is 21 days, egg to adult.

Fun facts from Kym Pokorny of The Oregonian…

Females decide whether to lay a female or male egg. A female lays about three to four male eggs for every two females because males emerge from the nest first and are more likely to end up as dinner for a predator. Since the males have no other job except to fertilize the females, they stick around the entry waiting for a female to emerge.

It takes the female about 15 to 35 trips — with 75 flower visits per trip — to collect enough pollen and nectar to feed one larva. She lays approximately 30 eggs in her lifetime.

Keeping mason bees is one of the easiest method of beekeeping.  What is so amazing about them?  200 mason bees will out-pollinate 2000 honey bees, they will fly at cooler temperatures than honeybees, and rain doesn’t bother them.  Mason bees rarely sting.

How do Mason bees pollinate so well?  Their pollen is gathered ‘dry’ on  the underside of their abdomen.   It’s more easily transferred than the wet pollen of the honeybee.

It’s November now.  The adult bee is fully formed and it’s the time of year to inspect for  Chaetodactylus mites, (not Varroa mites, common on honeybees).  Some people advise to wash the cocoons in a sieve with warm water.  I hesitate to do that, it seems like it might be too rough.  I opt to unroll the tube and gently brush off the debris.

PPulling out a tube, 11-17-13

November 17, 2013…we pull out a tube to inspect for mites.

November 17, 2013...adults are inside these cocoons.  Mud partitions clearly visible.

November 17, 2013…adults are inside these cocoons. Mud partitions clearly visible.

Parchment tubes frame the cocoons which have been brushed clean, no mites seen.

Parchment tubes frame the cocoons which have been brushed clean, no mites seen.

108 Adults this year, smlr11-17-13

108 adults this year.  They look good as compared to last year when we didn’t inspect until just prior to putting out the cocoons in late March.  We have found in this moist area,  the bees seem to prefer the wood nesting blocks as opposed to plastic homes.  They nested in 21 holes and only one in the plastic box.   Last year when I only used the plastic box there was mold in the tubes.  I’m not sure if it was due to the plastic or the length of time that I waited.

The start of the Mason bees this year.

Launching Mason bees in 2014 (from these cocoons)

Dave’s Bees

OSU Extension

Crown Bees

WSU Mason Bee Facts

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Mason bee covered in yellow pollen, sticking out of nest block

Mason bee covered in yellow pollen, sticking out of nest block

I check the bees occasionally, but usually at this time of night, they are all tucked into their nest tubes, so it was surprising to me to see this pollen covered bee sticking out.  Does anyone know what’s going on?

I shot this short video so you could see what I’m talking about.

This year’s start…

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Mason Bee Cocoons

Mason Bee Cocoons

Last year my wife opened the refrigerator to discover the Mason bees were starting to hatch…this year we were determined to hang the nests before that happened.  We ordered the cocoons from Knox Cellars in Western Washington.   They provided this little ‘launch box.’

Ready to place cocoons into box

Ready to place cocoons into box

I saw some great plans on Dave’s Bees on how to build the nests so I got started yesterday.

Saw off 1/2" (1 cm) off 2x6

Saw off 1/2″ (1 cm) off 2x6x8″

Entrance holes drilled more or less in a straight line.

Drill 3/8″ (9.5 mm) holes more or less in a straight line about 3/4″ apart

Exit holes...I need a drill press!

I hope the bees don’t have a measuring tape…someone can’t drill straight!

I didn't want to buy a longer bit, so I started with the top one and ended with the blade bit.  Don't start with the blade type...it'll take a long time.

I didn’t want to buy a longer bit, so I started with the top one and ended with the blade bit. Don’t start with the blade type…it’ll take forever to drill.

Assembly on kitchen table.  My wife is knitting a bee hive hat...how appropriate.

Assembly on kitchen table. My wife is knitting a
bee hive hat…how appropriate.

The rolled up parchment paper liners are sticking out.  They will be bent flat when the 1/2″ piece of sawed-off wood is fastened back on to seal it off.  See Dave’s Bees excellent video.

Mason Bee Nests in place

March 23…Mason Bee Nests in place with launch box taped securely

Grass trimmed under nests

Grass trimmed under nests to make bees more visible if they fall below.  The drones (males) will emerge first and wait for the females.  Sometimes the females will emerge and fall to the ground.

After about a week of waiting we start to see some activity…

One shy bee showing

One shy bee showing in 2nd row 2nd from left

Mason bee entering straw tube in wood block

March 30…Mason bee entering straw tube in wood block

Keeping mason bees is one of the easiest method of beekeeping.  Some interesting facts…200 mason bees will outpollinate 2000 honey bees.  Mason bees rarely sting.

A female Orchard Mason Bee visits more than 1,600 blossoms per day for about 45 days!    Will fly in temperatures as low as 50 F. (10 C), and is not bothered by rain.

In orchards with non-Apis bees, the foraging behaviour of honey bees changed and the pollination effectiveness of a single honey bee visit was greater than in orchards where non-Apis bees were absent

Mason Mud tray.  Since the Masons use mud to close up their tubes, it's recommended that you provide a nearby source of mud.

Mason Mud tray. Since the Masons use mud to close up their tubes, it’s recommended that you provide a nearby source of mud.

Six tubes filled already.

Six tubes filled already.

Mason bee update…looking for mites.

Mason bee launch, 2014

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