Cardboard tubes are used as nesting material for mason bees. Tubes are one of the many different types of nests available for mason bees. They are attractive to mason bees and produce a good
return of mason bees for the following year. However, cardboard tubes should only be used once ( accumulation of pests and predators over one season) , tubes do not provide protection against parasites and predators and are usually time consuming to unfurl tubes in order to harvest and clean cocoons.
All cardboard tubes are not created equal. It was originally thought that thick walled cardboard tubes would prevent parasitization of the bees. We soon found out that even cardboard tubes 40/1000″ (4mm) thick could be parsitized. It is now evident that these parasites can be reduced by using net bags in the summer and candling at time of harvest.
To make cardboard tubes easier to use we designed a cardboard tube that allows the easy harvesting of cocoons. We designed the EZY-Harvest tubes that unfurls after an overnight soak. It is simple!
Soak for 24-48 hours. The soaking dissolves the glue and cocoons are released into the water. some handling and unfurling is needed to release and harvest all cocoons. Read more about the details in additional blogs. Dr Margriet Dogterom
A question from Anne in the Kootenays (BC).
“ I was given your starting kit as a gift, and I am not clear if the cocoons
are to be removed from the nesting tubes for cleaning & where they should
be stored for a west Kootenay winter. “
Yes, it is always best to remove cocoons for cleaning. Unfurl or soak cardboard tubes. After an overnight soak in cold water the EZY-HARVEST cardboard tubes are easy to open for removing cocoons.
Store cocoons in fridge until late winter/early spring. Best to use a humidity chamber. This keeps cocoons moist at a humidity of about 60%. Later in the winter or after January, keep temperature between 2-4C.
Check out our website where there are more details on the humidity cooler.
A question from Gary, WA. “Approximately how many bees do I need to pollinate 17 fruit trees. How many females do you recommend? ”
Good fruit production depends on both the health of the tree and good pollination. Good pollination means at least 1-2 visits by bees.
The question of how many bees are needed for pollinating a number of fruit trees is a good question. The answer comes over a number of years. If in successive years fruit production is good and very few fruit are misshapen (because of poor pollination), you have enough bees for the orchard (whatever number you have).
My recommendation is to get 20-60 cocoons and a mason bee home with nesting tunnels in the first year. Learn to look after the bees over the course of a year and see how many cocoons your bees have produced. Besides buying mason bee cocoons, there are a few other ways to augment your mason bee numbers. Set out a series of nests in your neighbourhood, and better still at someones place that already has mason bees.
Then watch your fruit production increase often in just one year. A few bees will do a tremendous amount of work, but in poor weather conditions, you need more bees to get to the flowers in the short periods of sunny weather.
Dr Margriet Dogterom
It is holiday time. We travelled into the Interior of BC after a snow fall and during a cold snap. The prefect time for some x-country skiing. We even saw some moose tracks although we did not see the moose. It was a surprise to see the Thompson River still free of ice with little snow on its banks. Winter is here to stay for while.
Wishing everyone good holiday cheer, a Merry Christmas and a great New Year.
Here is something else to do besides cleaning and preparing for spring. A nifty conversion of a 6v flashlight.
to produce lotsof bees for the followign year, it is important that the majority of parasitic wasps are removed and destroyed. Identification of parasitized cocoons can be done by ‘candling’.
Randy from Olympia has devised a way of optimizing the light from a 6 volt battery for the candling process. I have not done it myself, but having a steady light for candling would optimize the candling process. Candling can identify cocoons filled with parasitic wasps. Once a cocoon with the parasitic wasps inside has been identified these are destoyed. Freezing is a simple way of destroying these tiny wasps when they are inside cocoons. If the wasp numbers are not kept under control- they can parasitize a lot of healthy cocoons. For full details of Randy’s conversion click on the file below. also click on candling in the search window of this blog.
“…I’ve had good luck with it since I made the conversion, getting steady light while my battery waits patiently for a chance to go camping again. The info is in the attached Word document. … if you think it’s of more general interest, you are welcome to put it out there on your website. Let me know if you have any questions, Randy”.
Optimize Your Cocoon
Hi, I put out a box of 7mm tubes next to my normal 8mm tubes for the Orchard Mason Bees or Osmia lignaria. The mason bees are doing very well filling their tubes. Attached is a picture of the 7mm tubes, they have 5-7 bees working in them. Most are horned Face (Osmia cornifrons) but a couple look like the regular Osmia lignaria but are much smaller as can be seen in the picture. My question is are they just small Osmia lignaria that prefer the smaller tubes or is there another species that I don’t know about? From what I can tell they look like the Osmia lignaria but are about the size of a Horned Faced. Thanks Norm
Hello Norm, Thank you for this fine photograph. I see two bees quite clearly, and the third is a bit too blurry to see what it is. I do not have any experience with the horned Face mason bee, but it has brownish coloration as the lower bee (see link below). The black one is Osmia lignaria. Both are early spring pollinators, and so both would be about in early spring. The size of female mason bees or Osmia lignaria varies quite a bit. I do not know if this is genetic variation or the end result of varying levels of nutrition. It is unlikely that there is a third species of a smaller size in early spring. However, many more smaller black mason bees are around that come out late spring through to late fall. at what time of year was this picture taken? Dr Margriet Dogterom