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Mason bee homes and nest types

Michael emailed me with a question on setting out new nests when the old nests are getting filled.  He asked if adding a nest close to the others would disorientate the bees already nesting at the location.  
I suggested that additional nests are best set out in the visual range and clustered close to the original nests. 
Michael also noted that his bees headed for the tubes first.  Yes mason bees prefer round holes, especially when the substrate is wood or carboard.  Unfortunately the bees’ choice is not always the best for eaze of management. 
Michael’s original question was:
If I need to set out more nesting sites for the Mason bees should I put them next to existing sites, or, put them a bit away from the one’s I originally set out?  The reason I ask is that I am getting many more bees to nest so far this spring compared to last year but I do not want to mess up the bees visual cues to the old sites.  I also know they like to be near each other.  Your thoughts?
Michael’s follow up notes are:
As I mentioned before I was particularly surprised by what happened this spring when most of the O. lignaria emerged at once with a very low dispersal rate.  This activity was in contrast to the last two springs where the dispersal rate was high and emergence rates were very sporadic.
In my nesting set-ups, which I have two of them around my house (see the BEFORE photo), I put 40 cocoons in the wooden house, and 20 cocoons in each of the tube units (80 total of O. lignaria).  There was also 20 of your O. californica cocoons in the wooden nursery house.
I set out all of my bees on April 20 and to my astonishment, almost all of O. lignaria had emerged by April 22, and the first mud nests were made in the tubes on April 24.
The second surprise was that all of the bees decided to move to the tube units (reeds and paper filled tubes).  This is where I was beginning to get concerned that I would not have enough nesting sites.  We had a week of very good weather, and then we had four-five days of cool and damp weather which I then decided to put another tube unit below the existing two tube units (see AFTER photo).
During this cool period of weather, I noticed that all the O. lignaria bees were resting in the tubes, so I kept track of what bees were in what tubes and how far they had gotten along in building their mud nests.  The good news is that when the good weather returned last weekend that all of the existing bees resumed their normal activity and were not deterred by the NEW unit below!  It seems that putting a new nesting house nearby did not distort their visual cues (at least under my conditions).
Also, in taking the pictures of my nesting sites last weekend I noticed the O. californica I purchased from you were beginning to emerge.
I just managed to snap a photo of a O. californica male and female bee doing what a pair of bees are supposed to do .
It might also be my imagination but it appears that the O. californica seem a bit larger than the O. lignaria, and so far all the O. californica bees are headed for the tubes.
Maybe it is some kind of social communication or interaction, but who knows what the bees are really thinking!
Best wishes,
Michael-
Mating Osmia californica

Before
After

My friend from Duncan sent me photos of all her different nest types.  No matter what kind of nests you design or use, most nests are used by bees.  They will prefer some over others, but if there are lots of bees, and nesting space is limited, mason bees will use any type of nesting cavity.  But the type of nest takes on a different meaning when considering that keeping mason bees and keeping them pest free is of a very high priority. The ease of getting into the nest, harvesting and cleaning cocoons become a very high priority because it determines in part the success of mason bees.



Cleaning station in the kitchen.



These are hexagon shaped nestign tunnels made of clear plastic. 
There is no doubt that mason bees use it, but cleaning nests and
harvesting cocoons is not possible with this nest type.  In most locations
if nests are not kept clean, parasites and mites build up in
 such numbers that the bee population collapses in 3-4 years.
This structure holds the clear plastic hexagons, paper
tubes and reeds.  Paper tubes can be opened and cocoons can be harvested.
Reeds can also be opened with relative ease.  Take care
when choosing reed type because some types of bamboo are near to impossible to open.
This is the Beediverse Highrise with tubes on the side. 
The Highrise Quicklock nesting trays can be opened and
cleaned.  After cleaning these nesting trays can be re-assembled
 for the following spring.
A great spot for mason bee  homes-a warm
south facing wall under an overhang.
Success!  Cleaned and harvested cocoons
  
Roeland Segers from Holland contacted me the other day about nesting alternatives.  We continued our conversation about Osmia rufa, an European Mason bee.  I asked if he would like to share some of his photos with the blog and its readers.  I was most delighted to receive the following photos.  If you’d like to contact him direct, go to his web site.  The website is in Dutch with some gorgeous photos.  He writes
“  My company has recently been rebranded to: De Bijen, Bestuivingstechniek (translating to: The Bees, Pollination techniques) from Nijmegen in the Netherlands. My websites: for masonbees http://www.metselbijen.nl/ (for honeybees http://www.rendementdoorbijen.nl/ )”

Roeland’s mason bee web site


Mason bee se-up while pollinating cherries.
Mason bee nests are made of routered channels cut out of compost board.
Boards are held together with a tie-strap.  



Osmia rufa doing the finishing touches to her nest.



Osmia rufa male.  Note the long antennae.



Females resting over night inside their nesting tunnels.
Embrace (Osmia rufa)
Fierce competition
I use a wedge of corrugated plastic to secure nesting trays into a Highrise home.  Corrugated plastic sheeting is made from 100% recyclable plastic and it is easy to cut and fold to fit any cavity.  I jam it into the space above the nesting trays and trays are secured into the Highrise. 

For the second year in a row, I have had mason bees nesting in these tiny nesting cavities.  These tiny cocoons are similar in colour as Osmia lignaria cocoons, but much smaller in size.  I have not seen this small bee fly, so I do not know what they look like nor do I know what time of the year they appear.  If you have a piece of corrugated plastic, set a piece in amongst your other nest materials and see what happens.

Here is the Highrise with nesting trays (without the cedar roof).  The gap above the nesting trays is where I insert the folded plastic corrugated material and use it as a wedge to securely hold trays in place.



A folded piece of corrugated plastic acts like a wedge above Highrise nesting trays.  Most holes in corrugated plastic are used as nesting tunnels by a species of summer mason bee, as can be seen by the presence of mud plugs.The nesting material below the blue corrugated plastic are the Beediverse Quicklock Corn trays.  Here the different coloured mud plugs indicates that mason bees use different sites to collect their mud. 

 




The spring mason bee cocoon is on the left (with its nesting trays on the far left).  The tiny summer mason bee cocoon is on the right. 




After slicing the nesting tunnel open you can see how the tiny cocoon fits into the tiny nesting tunnel.



Closeup of plastic corrugated sheets filled with mud plugs.

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