We just added a little Mason bee house to the garden and stocked it with hollow tubes and Mason bee larva, so we should have bees within days.
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Mason Bees are a type of solitary bee that are found in North America and Japan. They nest in pre-existing cavities, such as hollow plant stems and tunnels created by wood boring beetles, and use clay or mud to make walls that separate different compartments within the nest. They are important pollinators for plants such as apple, cherry, and blueberry, as well as for many types of wildflowers. Mason bees are very small and mostly black in color, with a furry body that traps pollen and nectar from flowers. These bees are incredibly efficient workers because they can visit up to 2000 flowers a day, and can often pollinate before honeybees arrive at the same site. Mason bees are some of the earliest pollinators, flying when temperatures reach 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Due to their efficiency and low maintenance requirements, Mason bees are considered low-maintenance pollinators, since they do not require complex nesting structures, and they have fewer natural enemies than other native bee species. Moreover, they typically stay within the vicinity of their homes, making them ideal for small-scale commercial pollination operations. Mason bees are becoming increasingly popular amongst gardeners and beekeepers alike.
MASON BEES AS POLLINATORS
Mason Bees are terrific pollinators, several times more efficient than honey bees. Their bodies are covered with hairs, so they become covered with the pollen when they land on a flower. Then they easily transfer the pollen to the next flower. They only forage within a few hundred feet of their home, unlike the honey bee that travels a mile or two. They are gentile and rarely sting, so they are the perfect pollinator to add to a garden. Since we have been planting flowers for honey bees for some time, they should have plenty of sources of pollen and nectar in our garden.
We got this little house from an online company, Crownbees. It came with lots of information and instructions, larva, tubes, mud, and mason bee attractant. So easy. We hung it on a nail on the fence, put the bee larva in the attic, and the tubes in the house. Within days they were hatching and working in the garden.
Mason bees are named for their use of mud or other materials to construct their nest. They are solitary bees that do not produce honey or wax. The female builds a nest in a hollow twig or a naturally occurring hole or crack. They don’t drill holes or damage wood. She gathers nectar and pollen to supply the nest and lays her eggs in it. Then she partitions and seals it with mud.
A few weeks later, we added leafcutter bees to the house. They can live in the same house, but they like slightly smaller reeds, so there are two sizes in the house.
The birds moved in, built a nest under the eves of the house next door and took to sitting on the fence. We were entertained by their acrobatic flights, until we realized that they were catching and eating our bees. Circle of Life.
But despite the birds, there seems to be a lot of bees in our yard this year.
Photos by Tony Fitzgerald Photography