My first year’s experience with mason bees has been very interesting so far. Within a week or so after I put them outside in their houses, the weather began to get very warm and dry, and before I knew it I was seeing a few bees flying in and out of the tubes. It was an unusually dry and warm April, so the ones that survived were lucky to have wonderful weather in which to go about their business. When they hatched they had plenty of food waiting for them in my garden, especially in the freshly opened buds of the plum trees right next to the shed. I placed a bucket of muddy dirt nearby as well just to make sure there was wet earth for them to use to seal their tubes. Considering the extremely dry conditions I don’t know where they would have found the mud otherwise.
The five weeks went by so quickly that I was confused when I wasn’t seeing anymore bees and only 6 tubes had been sealed. I thought maybe they had died or been eaten by predators, but apparently the season was already over, and they were done. Out of the 20 mason bees I had bought, 3 of the cocoons never hatched, and I have to admit I was a bit disappointed that the remaining 17 bees only managed to fill 6 of the tubes. The mason bee house that I bought from Down to Earth is the only one that the bees used, so now I know that next year I do not need two bee houses side by side if I only have 20 bees. It’s clear to me now that I should probably have at least 40 bees. Hopefully, I will get many more of my own bees to add to the colony next year.
Since no bees used the bee house with the parchment paper tubes, I don’t think I want to use that method next year. I will buy the thicker tubes instead and definitely place the house in another area of the yard closer to the front where I have some fruit trees. I am very curious as to why the bees preferred the one house over the other. Was it the bright colors? Did the bees in the colored house hatch first and attract the other bees over to them? A little more research is in order here.
Since it’s been about two weeks of no activity, I decided to take the bee house down. The temperatures were just getting too warm, and I needed to get the house in a shadier spot where it will stay cooler until fall while the bees are developing. When I opened the top attic area to remove the little box of hatched cocoons, I was shocked to see that a wasp was building a nest in there! I managed to gently knock it out of there so I could get out the cocoons to take a look. Two of the cocoons had not hatched, and the big one must have been a female. After screwing the attic cover back on I put some Dab in the hole to keep any more wasps from making a nest in there. I hung the bee house up on the north side of my garage shed, so that should be a pretty cool and protected place for now.
In my next post on Mason Bees it will be fall, and I’ll be ready for the next step which will involve removing the fully developed cocoons from the tubes and placing them in the refrigerator for their winter hibernation. I sure hope I get a lot more mason bees next year because obviously 20 wasn’t enough!
Ending on a positive note, I have noticed a lot more honey bees in my yard this spring. It is likely due to the incredibly warm and dry weather we’ve been having this year in addition to all the fruit trees and blooming plants I now have in my yard. It certainly makes me feel hopeful to see all those bees buzzing around. GO BEES!!!