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)
In the previous post I indicated I was trying to identify wasps that had taken up residence in mason bee tubes, without actually parasitizing the mason bees
I found the larvae in tubes while removing the mason bee cocoons in the winter, and transferred them to a separate jar where I let them hatch. By May 1 they were hatching so after taking a few pictures, I sent the images off to BugGuide.
So he thinks there are actually three species represented in these pictures.
Eumenines prey mainly upon moth larvae, although some take larvae of leaf-feeding beetles.
Adults take nectar.
Kingdom Animalia (Animals) Phylum Arthropoda (Arthropods) Subphylum Hexapoda (Hexapods) Class Insecta (Insects) Order Hymenoptera (Ants, Bees, Wasps and Sawflies) No Taxon (Aculeata – Ants, Bees and Stinging Wasps) Superfamily Vespoidea (Yellowjackets and Hornets, Paper Wasps; Potter, Mason and Pollen Wasps and allies) Family Vespidae (Yellowjackets and Hornets, Paper Wasps; Potter, Mason and Pollen Wasps) Subfamily Eumeninae (Potter and Mason Wasps) Genus Ancistrocerus
There were three species identified from my photographs( labelled above) although it is very difficult to confirm identity without being able to examine a specimen. Next year I will be sure to send him samples to confirm, and I will certainly not destroy these larvae when cleaning out mason bee tubes.
The time to put out your mason bees which have been overwintered in your refrigerator is when you need them to do their work. I release mine in batches. The first batch was several weeks ago when the peaches and nectarines were in bloom. This week, the pears, plums and cherries are in bloom so I just put out another batch of cocoons near my bee homes. I will save the last batch for my apple trees which bloom later.
I had to transplant this peach tree this year to the corner of the vegetable preparation building so I found another good spot to place a bee home.
Don’t forget to make sure that your mason bees can find a good source of mud while they are laying their eggs in your tubes. I discovered a year ago that if you provide a reliable source within a few metres of the bee houses, they will use less energy to go to gather mud and will therefore be more efficient.
See this post I did at that time. Another observation has led me to believe that they prefer to collect mud in horizontal holes in the side of a trench. This trench is kept wet throughout the nest-building period, and I dig holes into the walls of the trench. It is probably an adaptation to prevent predation, as they would be easy targets on an open patch of wet soil. They also prefer “clayish ” mud, as any good mason knows that their mud needs to be sticky… Sandy doesn’t do it!
This year I gathered some freshly exposed clay and added it to my mud trench.
Occasionally I will take a sample of several dozen cocoons that are in cold storage and test them for viability. The longer they remain in storage before release, the more likely that some parasites will get a better head start.
Once the temperatures are up on sunny days, cocoons placed out near their prospective homes will start cutting their way out of the cocoons and fly off to get materials to fill their own tubes for the coming year. If there are remaining cocoons unopened after a week and a half of warm weather, then it may be worthwhile to check them for parasites. You can open a cocoon with a sharp box-cutter blade, carefully picking away at the tough cocoon. If the bees are healthy they will leave within a few minutes. You may encounter the following parasites and if so you should get rid of them. I have included some here that I not quite sure about as well. These parasites are natural, but when, as with many monocultures we concentrate many of one species together, the chance of pests finding a good place to thrive is increased.