Mason Bees Post #1

Mason Bees

The time has come to embark on a new adventure in the garden, and that adventure is… Mason Bees!

I’m starting two new projects this year, and this one is the easier of the two.  The other project I am preparing for will be growing medicinal herbs which will require quite a bit of study and planning.  Fortunately, housing and managing mason bees in the garden is not at all complicated, time consuming or expensive, and yet the benefits are hopefully going to be great, because I should get better pollination, and therefore more fruit!

I’ve wanted to learn more about bees for quite sometime now, and I have wanted to attract more bees to my garden for pollination, but setting up and managing an actual honey bee hive was something that seemed too work intensive and too costly for me at this time.  Maybe later.  Mason bees are ideal for my situation not only because they are easy to set up and manage, but they are better pollinators than honey bees, and they don’t even sting!

At the Holiday Market this last year I bought this simple hive you see in the first photo.   I liked the price, $35.00, and I liked the simple, rustic design.  It is a good size for the side of my shed, and the back opens up for easy cleaning of the channels at the end of the season.  I will probably buy a couple more mason bee houses later, and I’ll set up one closer to the front side of my house since I have fruit trees out front as well.  When I do get the other bee houses, I’m thinking of buying one of the houses made by the kids at Mc Cornack Elementary School who do the Mason Bee Project.  These kids make and decorate the bee houses and then will also clean and sanitize them at the end of the season for you if you want.  At Down to Earth, in Eugene, they have a wonderful display of mason bee houses along with books, supplies and whatever you need to get started with your own mason bees.

I bought my first ten mason bee cocoons, 4 female and 6 males, from The Backyard Farmer in Eugene near 5th & Lincoln for 14.00.  You can also find them at Down to Earth near 5th & Charnelton.  They’re from Crown Bees headquartered in Woodinville, WA.  You can sign up for free Bee-Mails that will give you tips on when to do what at www.crownbees.com.   You can get them on Facebook too.  I’m keeping the cocoon box inside my refrigerator in the lower crisper drawer until the daytime temperatures reach 53 degrees outside.  I also want to spray my fruit trees one last time before they start to bloom out, and I don’t want the bees to have to deal with the chemicals from the spray, even if it is just copper spray.

If I had known more about mason bees before I bought my bee house, I probably would have just made a simple box and then bought the individual tubes, which are just 10 cents a piece, to stack inside.  The tubes are easy to remove and unravel at the end of the season when it’s time to take out the larvae to store over the winter, but since I already bought the bee house that I now have, I decided to do what was suggested and use parchment paper to make tubes.  It’s certainly cheap, and hopefully it will be easily removable from the channels later.   The photos show how I rolled up the little parchment papers and stuck them inside the channels.    I’ll just wait until the weather warms to 53 degrees so I can set the cocoons out and wait for the bees to come out.  I’m a little nervous that they won’t find their way to their nesting tubes, but we’ll see how it goes.  I may go get another bee house this weekend.  In the meantime, I’ll be reading up more on mason bees and looking forward to the experience.

The last photo of the bee on a sunflower was taken at the end of last summer.  It shows how much pollen these little critters can pack onto their little bodies.  Make sure to click on the photo to get the enlarged view.  What fascinating creatures!

Some of the websites I found online that were really informative were the following:

http://www.parentmap.com/article/keeping-mason-bees-10-expert-tips-for-families
Real good article

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Usdq7R2wQMY&NR=1&feature=endscreen

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=He3Nuy1FSqY

http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&v=QKRKeoUNeJg&feature=endscreen
How to make a mason bee house.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&feature=endscreen&v=lBVBvThVzXw
How to make a mason bee solitary habitat from reeds.

 

 

 

 

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