Washing with water, removes all frass and most mites. The removal of frass is an important part of the cleaning process because it allows cocoons to be candled. Successful candling can only be done with clean cocoons. I want to make sure that cocoons parasitized with little wasps don’t end up in the cocoons that I sell or place out for production.
This is a great link to view coloured photos of mason bees pests.
Mites are pests for mason bees. Bees carry them from their old nest to their new nests, and then mites compete for food with the young developing bees. Mostly, if mites get into a cell with a developing bee and its pollen lump, mites will be the end result- not a bee.
Because mites on the surface of cocoons are waiting to be transported to a new nest by the emerging bee, it is imperative to get rid of most, if not all surface mites. Washing will remove the majority or mites. Rolling cocoons over a metal screen will remove the majority of the remaining mites.
Further reading on mite control ______________
A great DVD on How to _________________
Here are a few pictures of
Mites are transported by bees from the old nest to the new.
This is the time when parasitic wasps can produce another generation every week. During the summer months, when temperatures are higher than in spring and fall, these pesky little critters come out of the nest and search for new mason bee cocoons to parasitize. I don’t know how, but these tiny adult wasps can make a tiny pin hole in the tube and crawl out and parasitize more bees.
Every July, when most bee eggs have turned into adult bees inside their cocoons, I gather all nests, set them under a veranda- where the ambient temperature is still warm. I place two Highrises per net-bag (see wasp proof bags on my web site beediverse.com). They sit stacked against the wall of my home until the end of September when harvesting takes place.
I find that net bags are successful and keep out wasp parasites. Percent parasitism is usually not more than 5%. If you have had trouble with these parasites, you will be pleasantly surprised with the outcome.
|Mass release of alfalfa
leaf cutter bee cocoons.
I started this article some time ago, before I had all the pictures in place. Even though most mason bees have been set out, I think it is good to compare mason bee release systems to the commercial Alfalfa Leaf cutter bee industry mas release system. I think we can learn a lot from the 50 year old alfalfa leaf cutter bee industry.
How to set out bees, still in their cocoons, depends on quantity of cocoons, type of nests and whether predators exist in the area.
|Leaf cutter bee nests|
Alfalfa leaf cutter bee producers in the Canadian Prairies, usually mass release leaf cutter bee cocoons on trays. Thousands of cocoons are placed on trays. Trays are set up inside yurts or similar structures that house leafcutter bee nests. Three weeks prior to setting cocoons out, leafcutter bees are put through a warming period so that bee emergence is relatively fast. Trays are out for less than a week. A mere 7 days or so is little time for winds and predators to upset the trays full of cocoons.
|Prairie yurt with a tray of cocoons
set on top of nests.
It is a different story with mason bees. Emergence is often longer than a week, especially under cool spring temperatures. The number of cocoons set out are often less than a hundred or several hundred and less often in the thousands.
Setting out a few cocoons (less than 100) small vials with a bee size hole in the lid works well. Plastic vials are usually rodent proof. The space underneath the roof of the Beediverse Highrise is a great place to place the vial full of cocoons. This space is protected from the sun, but receives the heat through the roof.
|the Highrise roof protects vials
of cocoons from
predation and sun.
|Beediverse Emergence box
protects cocoons from predation
and the elements.
When setting out 100 or more cocoons, small vials are too cumbersome and too time consuming. It would be very easy to set out cocoons in open trays. I have tried setting cocoons out in trays, even in covered trays, but it has been less successful. Their extended emergence becomes problematic. Winds sometimes tip trays onto the ground Trays also make cocoons more vulnerable to predation from animals such as spiders, squirrels, mice, and wasps. To decrease the chance of predation a wooden box with an exit hole such as the Beediverse Emergence Shelters gives the best result. Two are sold for $19.95.
|Small and large release boxes.
Dave M. Port Alberni BC
I find these extremely handy. I fit about 200 cocoons into each one. I make notes on the outside to tell me where cocoons were produced. This is handy because after spring emergence, I can check what the emergence was the previous spring. Emergence should be 95% or more.
David M. from Port Alberni uses a square box with a hinged lid. Each box, with two layers of cocoons, holds about 2000 cocoons.
If you have a system you would like to share with our readers, email me a description and pictures.
|Petri dish for storing 100-200 cocoons|
|A stack of petri dishes filled with cocoons are placed inside this fridge for storage. Cocoons are then placed into release houses ready for release.|
|This is the freezer compartment in a manual-defrost type fridge. The stack of petri dishes are just below this compartment.
Use a thermometer to let you know when temperatures are too warm or too cold.
|A container filled with water ensures a greater than 60% humidity.|
|Release houses filled with 100 cocoons are held in the fridge, prior to releasing into the D27 yurt. The cardboard straw temporarily plugs up the front entrance of the Starter Cottage.|