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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.
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.
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
So he thinks there are actually three species represented in these pictures.
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)
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.
When 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Other postings on parasites
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:
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)
The Blue-eyed Darner Rhionaeschna multicolor showed up in late July. Several buzz the pond continuously on a warm day.
An excellent resource for identification of dragonflies on British Columbia is http://www.pbase.com/terrythormin/bc_anisoptera