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)

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

 

Identification of Wasp Larvae from Mason Bee tubes

Wings held partly erect.
Wings held partly erect.

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

 

 

largewasplarvaeI 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.

The result after several months was an identification by an expert in entomology : Our thanks to  Matthias Buck of  The Invertebrate Zoology Section, Royal Alberta Museum, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
http://bugguide.net/node/view/1218699#2158789

So he thinks there are actually three species represented in these pictures.

Food
Eumenines prey mainly upon moth larvae, although some take larvae of leaf-feeding beetles.
Adults take nectar.
Classification

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.

Plants for Pollinators in late May 2016

The mason bees have almost stopped their work of pollination by now.  However several bumblebee species and honey bees were very active around certain plants in the yard this week.

Mason Bees (Blue Orchard Bees) in action

Some images from this month’s activity of mason bees:

masonbeeonflower4
Today I was glad to see them active on my red pear which hasn’t produced well in past years.

 

A busy Mason Bee Morning

The warm sun encouraged a lot of activity around the Osmia lignaria boxes today .

breed3wide

 

Put Out Your Mason Bees when Pollinators are Needed

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.

2016-03-31 peachI 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.

Mason bees always need good mud

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.

mason bee crawls into the side tunnel
mason bee crawls into the side tunnel

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.

Holes drilled in clay for a mud source for mason bees
Holes drilled in clay for a mud source for mason bees

 

Parasites of Mason Bee Colonies.

  • 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.
  • SEE OTHER POSTS on this site for entries on Parasites

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.

frasse
The small black cigars are frasse, (insect manure.)