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Mason bees are waiting for you to harvest, clean and store them in readiness for next spring. What will you find behind these formidable mud walls? Note the different colours of these mud walls. This means that several sources of mud were used by these bees!
Before washing harvesting and washing cocoons, there are all sort of interesting critters to see and find. Some are harmful to the mason bees and need to be cleaned off cocoons.
Thank you Frank for the great pictures. This will help lots of folks identifying stuff they find in their mason bee nests.
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 neighborhood, 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
Here is something else to do besides cleaning and preparing for spring. A nifty conversion of a 6v flashlight.
to produce lots of bees for the following 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 destroyed. 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