PHRAGMITES Reed Grass Tubes for Mason Bee pollinators available for 2018 season

NOTE: I do not have Mason Bee Cocoons available for sale in 2018, however I can provide the stems of the native reed Phragmites australis which are considered to be the best tubes for encouraging the native mason bee pollinators. By putting out the tubes alone without releasing  bees, you can in some areas attract the native pollinators anyway. 

I package these in lots of 30 now for $15.00 plus shipping costs. Included are a variety of lengths and diameters if you want. Smaller diameters attract other mason bee species. Indicate the maximum tube length you prefer when ordering. Ordering by Paypal  is acceptable or you may pick them up at our farm in Metchosin on Southern Vancouver island.

Price for 30 tubes=$15.00
GST and PST= $1.75
packaging and shipping= $3.90
Total = ($20.65.Canadian) ($16.50 US) use the paypal button below:

 

 

Price for 60 tubes= $28.00
GST and PST = $ 3.36
packaging and shipping= $7.79
Total= ($39.15 Canadian) ($31.00 US) –Use the paypal button below:

Basket full of cut Phragmites tubes..
Some successful Phragmites tubes split open in November before cleaning out the cocoons.

 

 

Even if you can’t get a source for bees this year, you can set out some of these tubes placed in a suitable re-purposed home made from a PVC pipe (or see other homemade suggestions if you scroll down through postings here), and you will probably attract native mason bees. That is how I acquired my native mason bee stock originally.

Ad on Used Victoria:http://www.usedvictoria.com/classified-ad/Phragmites-Tubes-for-raising-Mason-Bee-Cocoons–30-in-packet_24676827

 

Beware of this Bad Buy

Recently this Mason Bee house has appeared on the market and it has to be one of the worst pieces of equipment I have seen for encouraging mason bees. I have recently sent a request to Costco management requesting that this item be removed from their shelves.
The following are the reasons that I have made this criticism:

 

 

1. The tubes are made of bamboo and are impossible to break open to remove cocoons for cleaning to prevent parasitic mite infection. The manufacturer even gives directions to put them back outside in the spring  without cleaning out the parasitic mites. This is totally irresponsible as it will lead to an increase in mite population since you are creating a monoculture which encourages parasites.

2. The maximum depth of the tubes is less than 4 inches. Mason bees need at least a 6 inch depth. Also some of them are open ended allowing parastic wasps in the back end as well.

 

3.The diameter of many of the tubes is away too large. The ideal size for mason bees is 5/16 inch.

4. The diameter of many of the tubes was too small for mason bees.

5. Some of the tubes were glued in upside down with nodes at the front end preventing bees from entering.

6. Many of the tubes had nodes near the centre, rather than at the bottom end,  meaning they were less than 2 cm deep and no sane mason bee would use those tubes.

The partial solution if you end up buying one of these things if you can’t return it, is to remove all the tubes as in the video below, and fill them or replace them with disposable phragmites or cardboard tubes.

 

Transplant time

I don’t recommend this to everyone but it certainly worked well when I had to cut some limbs from a tree which was too close to one of the farm buildings.

 

 

Before it got too soggy here in the winter I used the tractor backhoe to do several transplants around the farm. Somehow some plants just got planted in the wrong place, and it becomes obvious once they grow a bit. I find that transplanting works 90% of the time.

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Phragmites Reed Tubes vs Plastic tube-trays for Mason Bees.

Cindy, one of my regular mason bee customers has had to move East and she was so dedicated to her mason bees that she left them with me to look after.  She had run a small experiment in her bee box that I thought would be useful to comment on here.

Today I opened the tubes to remove the Cocoons for storage over winter in the refrigerator.

On first glance, the plastic containers appear to have a good number of successful plugged tubes. When the plastic containers were opened however, it was obvious that mites had taken a large toll on the cocoons:

Top and bottom halves of the plastic containers, The parasitic wasps were present in many of the plastic tubes.

 

I was interested in comparing the productivity of the phragmites tubes versus the plastic tubes so I kept track of the number tubes, the number of cocoons and the number of tubes with parasitic mites. Here are the results:

Number of plastic tubes: 24    —  Number of phragmites tubes: 18

Number cocoons in plastic=108 — Number cocoons in phrag= 91

Ave. number -plastic tube=4.5—-Average number-phrag.tube =5

Mite-infected-plastic tubes=14  —- Mite-infected-phrag. tubes=2


So it appears from this small sample that the Phragmites tubes produced more cocoons and had fewer mite infestations.

 

 

 

Fall Tractor work

Some last minute fall work today as the weather is to turn cold and wet, with early snowfall. So today I put on my gardens  compost from my steamy pile of a mixture of horse manure, seaweed, wood chips, local coffee shop coffee grounds and  and household compost.

And getting a few more buckets of firewood was essential, as it looks like we are in for a cold wet winter from now on .

Provide a Source of Mud for Mason Bees

A t this time of year as you set out your mason bee cocoons, dont forget to provide a ready source of mud. This video shows a little trick I discovered where they seem to prefer mud tunnels to gather their mud for the tubes.  This makes sense as there is less chance of predation by birds when picking up mud when the bees are out of sight.

Dig a small 5″ deep trench within a few metres of your bee houses, and bore horizontal holes into  the side of it. Put a bucket of water in the trench when it looks dry.

A late Season here for Mason Bees

It has been so cool in the last month here in Metchosin that my mason bees have almost missed the peach and nectarine blooming time.

A peach tree on the left with blossoms deteriorating, and a nectarine on the right at the south side of my barn. Three Mason bee houses are in the centre.

Update–April 15: Today they were the most active i have seen them . I started putting a few cocoons out a week ago, and have warmed up some indoors by just removing their containers  from the fridge and then setting the jar out in the daytime when the sun is on them.  Anyway a very unusual cold start for the spring.

I have several kinds of houses placed on the South East corner of our house.

 

Mason Bees for Sale: Spring 2017

( SOLD OUT for 2017 and 2018)SEE recent post:

I now have mason bee cocoons available to be picked up at our farm for the Spring Season, 2017.  You can email or phone ahead to arrange a time to get them:  Osmia lignaria

 

Currently they have been cleaned and are refrigerated.

Phragmites reed tubes now available: $16.00 for 2 dozen

Costs for this year for two dozen packets are as follows:
25 Cleaned Mason Bee Cocoons = $15.00
24 (now 30) Phragmites reed tubes= $15.00

For Culturing, I also sell dried natural Phragmites reed grass stem tubes which I harvest from our wetland. I find that these tubes are the the most efficient type of tube for attracting mason bees and reducing parasite infection.

Also inexpensive re-purposed material houses are available.

Another Pallet design holding 4 dozen tubes. This website shows how to use only pallets that are chemically safe

I also have a selection of re-purposed materials bee houses complete with phragmites tubes installed . These range from $30.00 to $50.00. But I would really encourage you to make your own so samples for ideas will be available.

I am also already planning on attending the following Seedy Saturdays where I will have a display and the blue orchard bees for sale. (click on for links)

January 14: Saanich Seedy Saturday
February 4: Qualicum Beach Seedy Saturday.
February 18: Victoria Seedy Saturday.
February 25: Sooke Seedy Saturday
March 4 : Comox Valley Seedy Saturday
 

March 5 : Nanaimo Seedy Sunday