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.

 

 

 

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.

Wasp larvae in mason bee tubes yields newly hatched adults.

2015-12-22wasplarve2When cleaning out the mason bee tubes and recovering cocoons in the winter, I came across several tubes which had been completely colonized by another species of bee/wasp. Images and comments on this can be found in this post:

So now I am trying to get this species identified and will update when I find out. June 6 post shows the identification

newwasp5
Unidentified wasp/bee :Currently under inquiry with the experts.

 

At first I thought these were the paper wasps as they held their wings outspread but the image below of those wasps from the Polistinae family shows a completely different body pattern. Dr. Matthias Buck of the Royal Edmonton Museum is working on samples of these to do DNA sequencing.

 

Why Cleaning Mason Bee tubes after November is Important

Today I came across two unopened reed tubes which I had forgotten  in the refrigerator so the cocoons had not hatched out.  The image below shows why it is important to clean your tubes out in the winter and not leave them until late spring.

mites3may1
One cocoon remains on the left at the inside base of the tube. It had a live female which when she hatched would have had to crawl out of the tube through several compartments filled with mites, represented by the orange deposits they leave after consuming  parasitised larval bees.  The mites are in the compartments on the right side, toward the open end of the tube.

If people leave mason bee homes out unattended from year to year, the parasite population expands . They wouldn’t be so successful in the wild where mason bee nests are more dispersed in holes in wood or under tree bark. . When we provide homes for them however, along with increasing the bee population, we are also  multiplying  the success of the parasites. So if we are going to encourage bee populations, it is our responsibility to attend to the cocoons in the fall or winter to be sure they are not contaminated with a new generation of mites.

A busy Mason Bee Morning

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

breed3wide

 

Mason Bee (Blue Orchard Bee) tube cleaning and unidentified wasp larvae.

masonbeefulltube
Successful mud-filled tubes of Mason bees.

masonbeewasptubeThe photo above is of one of the better colonized box of tubes from the summer of 2015. Each mud-sealed tube in this box will contain on average 5 mason bee cocoons.

In the lower section of the box shown below, several mud plugs are of lighter colour and a smoother texture. I have found that these ones are colonized completely by another bee, I thought they may probably be resin bees , but now I have found out they are from the Subfamily Eumeninae (Potter and Mason Wasps):

See  hatched bee/wasp images  in May 1/2016 post: http://www.gfletcher.ca/?p=1538

When the tubes from several boxes which had the light coloured mud plugs were split open they appear as in the photo below.

2015-12-22wasplarve2
In opening my tubes for cleaning in the winter, I saved several tubes which are probably resin bees which are also pollinators. I have saved these in a separate container to see what hatches from them. Resin bees hatch when the weather gets warmer in later summer. That’s why these are still in the larval stage.

Other postings on parasites

Emergence of dragonfly adults.

Dragonfly nymphs in their last instar crawl up the stems of pond plants where the adult emerges . I see many exoskeletons still clinging to the stems:

dragflyexoskeleton
Dragonfly nymph exoskeleton
2015-08-06dragflynewl copy
Newly emerged dragonfly with one wing not yet inflated.

INSTAR: An instar ( i/ˈɪnstɑr/, from the Latin “form”, “likeness”) is a developmental stage of arthropods, such as insects, between each moult (ecdysis), until sexual maturity is reached. Arthropods must shed the exoskeleton in order to grow or assume a new form. ( Wikipedia)