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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:
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.
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.
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 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.
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
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.