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.
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.
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.
Well thats a takeoff on what I have decided to call my Mason Bee operation.. Its now MASON BEES METCHOSIN. Below are the latest versions of a poster and simplified yearly directions I have on a business card.
Scroll back through the mason bee postings to see samples of houses made from repurposed/recycled materials.
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.
Costs for this yearfor 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.
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)
After removing the cocoons from their tubes, it is important to give then a good wash to get rid of mites. I do not use a bleach solution as some do, as I don’t think it is a very natural product and incorrect concentrations could have harmful effects.. I have no problem controlling the mite population either. .. I use three changes of lukewarm water in a large container. Then scoop them out by hand and dry on paper towels before putting in a plastic peanut butter jar in the fridge to hibernate until bloom time.
I had a report recently from a mason bee enthusiast telling me that his mason bee colony had been attacked by rats and most of the cocoons had been taken. These images show what happened. One thing I note in the pictures is that the house wqas on a fence with a platform in front of the bank of tubes. It is best to have nothing that birds or rodents can stand on, and that might have prevented this type of predation. If one is concerned at this time of year, it would be a good idea to gently fasten a fine mesh wire screen to the opening of the box, or since the activity of the bees is probably finished, moe the house to a cooler safe location — gently because you want to be sure that the bee eggs have been secured into the food matrix.