Tuesday, April 12, 2011

My Adventures with Mason Bees

A mason bee house next to a bluebird house
Recently I became interested in mason orchard bees.  Since we do so much woodenware here, it seems like a natural avenue to explore working with houses for critters like mason bees, bats, butterflies and birds.

After getting several blueprints and working them up, we have come up with several houses we really enjoy. We have a new little offshoot company called Prairie Bees and Bats and will soon be debuting our creations off our main website: www.honeybeesonline.com. 

Mason bees are interesting bugs.  Mason bees can do a mightier work at pollination than honey bees can, but masons are short lived compared to a honey bee.  So while masons would be powerful for orchards and early flowers, it's honey bees that are going to do the work in our vegetable gardens and flower beds. 

Mason bees are named for the way they build their habitats in hollow tubes with mud.  Females pack in bee bread, then lay an egg--which eventually makes a cocoon and then hibernates through the winter.  You can then buy these tubes from companies and on the first series of nice days (50 degrees) you put the tube out in your bee house.
The bigger tube on the right is the cocoons I purchased on the internet
I recently laid out my first and only tube of mason bees this past week when the weather sailed up into the 70's and 80's.  I only waited a day to see the first guys emerge:

Newly hatched mason bees
I have yet to see anyone actually move into this rather cool condo building, but these bees are not at all like the honey bee.  Masons are solitary bees, meaning they can live alone.  Honey bees can be controlled by humans (to an extent),  live in a swarm in a hive with a hierarchical structure of jobs and duties.  So masons can live anywhere, alone, and attracting them to stay is kin to waiting for birds to move into newly constructed bird houses, or waiting for bats to find your new bat house. And of course, you aren't going to get any honey.

But if you are wanting some awesome pollination done, and the faster and early as possible, for as little money as necessary, Mason bees may be a good bet. 

No comments: