My name is Dr Margriet Dogterom and am the founder and owner of Beediverse. I write this blog for all who love bees and who want to learn more about these wonderful creatures.
FROM HAROLD- Show my Mason Bee homes? Sure, I’d be glad to.
My “Mason Bee Ranch” is situated in the corner of my property on Denman Island. Its a 4′ x 8′ structure that is intended to last as long as I do. I’m in the process of converting from a “Rustic system” (your terminology) to one using paper tubes inserted into holes drilled in wood blocks. I’ve tried to discourage bees from using their old nests by hanging Remay (spun cotton) over the front of them. Unfortunately that wasn’t entirely successful and I’ll have to try some other excluder technique this year.
I also have another location on the side of my garden shed. It includes some Quicklock trays and some magnificent house structures and nest tubes given to me by Paquale in Coquitlam (who has been a tremendous inspiration).
My nest blocks are usually 2×4 pieces or 2×6 pieces cut into 4 inch widths. I have a small drill press but it can only draw down 2 to 3 inches into the block. So I can only start with a straight hole and then finish with an electric hand held drill. (Sometimes the holes are a bit skewed at the far end.) I make my own tubes by cutting kraft paper to appropriate dimensions, rolling it tightly around a 5/16 wooden dowel. and inserting it into the 3/8 hole. The tube is ‘sealed’ by folding or crimping the small extruding end length and covering the entire back with a piece hockey tape or Duck tape (a brand of duct tape). In the autumn I simply peal off the tape, unwrap the folded end, and pull it out (with pliers if needed). Unwrapping is easy since no glue was used on rolling and inserting.
I’ve also drilled some 5/16 holes and inserted 1/4 inch rolls. Some have been used by Blue Orchard mason bees but I’ve been more interested in the other species that have preferred the smaller size. Unfortunately I don’t yet know what they are and intend to watch closely this spring. Any ideas as to what will emerge from the cocoons in the last photo?
REPLY-Thanks for your story and pictures Harold. The photo of cocoons are summer mason bees that plug up their nests with masticated leaf material. They often have red fecal material from the red pollen that they collect. Dr Margriet
I live in Red Deer, AB and I would love to keep mason bees in my yard. My relatives in Victoria have great luck with them and I would like to try it out as well, but concerned about our short summers and cold winters. I have tried searching on the web but I have found no straight answers. Your help and guidance would be greatly appreciated. Also,to order mason bees I noticed that some cocoons are listed as “spring mason bees”. From doing some reading it sounds as though there are summer mason bees as well? With our late springs I want to make sure I ordered the right ones. Your guidance is greatly appreciated.
Quite a few people do have mason bees in Red Deer and other areas of Alberta. There are no good reasons why they cannot survive in Red Deer, especially if you store the cocoons at temp not much below freezing over the winter. Your summer although short are nice and hot for the bees. They love your climate! Yes there are many species of summer bees that nest in cavities. They range from 2-5 mm in length and are quite tiny. They too are great pollinators. The leafcutter bee is a summer bee that is available from Beediverse. Order now for a March delivery.
Thank you for your prompt response. This is great news and I will be ordering up some bees for next Spring!
Trent E. from Seattle WA writes: Hi Margriet, I’ve been making slotted slats from wood scraps and placing stacks at home and public orchards around the Seattle, WA metro. Karen (green raincoat) and Suzanne (gray hoodie) helped install mason bee structures/hutches along the Burke Gilman trail in Wallingford Neighborhood of Seattle, WA (City Fruit (cityfruit.org) cares for fruit trees in this area) and Picardo Farm P-Patch (Seattle’s original community garden) in the Wedgwood Neighborhood of NE Seattle. Initially I used hutches hanging from telephone poles and orchard trees in which stacks of slats similar to your 6-channel slats were stacked. Last year, I added numerous more structures consisting of slats cut and routered from larger softwood beams including juniper that were bound together with an old bicycle tire inner tube and stuffed into a re-purposed black plastic pot turned on its side and screwed into a vertical surface. A piece of chicken wire is affixed to the pot lip to address bird predation. Propagation last year was good especially in the juniper stacks. I have a huge (several thousand which is huge to me) surplus of harvested cocoons this year. Happy New Year and thanks for all your work with mason bees.
Thanks Trent for a great story. This story is a good example of how a few people can spread the word about these hard working pollinators. It also gives others ideas on a variety of ways to hang these hutch structures up into public gardens. It is always best to hang your bee homes under an overhang of a house or shed. But if there is no building, a great idea is to place your bee home in a larger waterproof container like the black buckets in one of the photos. If there are recent updates, I would love to post them. Dr. Margriet
Community gardens are growing in numbers both in cities and small towns and so is the idea of having mason bees. These are exciting projects and are a boon to educating a large number of people about gardening and keeping mason bees. The Environmental Youth Alliance of BC (EYA), based in Vancouver, focus on educating youth and the public about the importance of bees. http://www.eya.ca/pollinators-paradise.html
Others groups focus on How-to grow food.
These groups have the same issues when setting mason bees into public spaces.
EYA involved youth to build Shelters for their mason bees. The most fancy is the Pagoda Shelter in Stanley Park. Although I have not seen it myself-I was told that it was designed so that the Quicklock nest blocks could not be pulled out of the structure. This structure is secure. I have not heard if rain was able to run into nesting holes. Setting the pagoda at a light angle would prevent this.
EYA is also involved in educating farmers about mason bees. This field shelter placed on farmland is not so tall since it is on private property, but nests are well protected from the weather.
A combination of Quicklock -corn trays and routered wooden nesting rays are used in this project.
Although the jury is not out on this yet, it seems that if a variety of nests are used in a Shelter fewer bees are produced. It is best to use one shelter for one type of nests and not mix nest type in one shelter.
Hello Margriet, Finally, I am attaching photos, as promised some time ago, of the bee condo structure my husband and I designed and built at our community garden in False Creek, Vancouver, BC.
Since we put it up fairly late in the season, we were too late for any bees to take up residency, but we are planning on getting cocoons next spring to “kick start” the cycle.
Thanks for the photos. This is a good workable shelter for mason bees when there are no other structures around to attach your nests. Others who work in community gardens might very well use this idea themselves. I recommend taking the nest down until early spring when you set out your bee cocoons to avoid any winter mishaps.