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Field shelters

Margriet,

I phoned you a few weeks ago to ask about where to place our new bee house.  You suggested a location that faces east and gets morning sun, and then added that putting a shelter around the house to keep off rain and wind would be a good idea.  Finally, you asked that if I built such a shelter, I should send you some photos.

The photos are attached.  The shelter faces east in a place where it should get morning sun, and it’s stained a dark brown to absorb heat.  It’s about 60 meters away from the apple tree we are hoping the bees will pollinate.  I hope that’s not too far.  The bees may find flowers and other plants closer by and never make it to the apple tree.  But we’ll keep our fingers crossed.

Don N.   Germantown Hills, IL
Hi Don,

Thank you for sharing your photos and story.  I think the shelter will work very nicely.  No, I dont think 60 yards is too far away from the orchard.  But, if you do find that pollination did not improve, set up your shelter closer to your orchard.  Margriet
This is where the shlelter is located.  East facing,

with trees as added wind protection.

 

Don’s shelter holds one Royal mason bee home with
Quicklock corn nesting trays.  Above the Royal, there
are two sturdy Emergence Shelters

with cocoons- waiting for warmer weather.

 

This is the same shelter as above, showing more of the structure.
Here are John’s photos of his very economical set up for mason bees.  It protects bees from chilling spring winds, and provides extra warmth to mason bee nests.  The full length tarp that goes to the ground keeps the wind out.  To keep all the wind out from entering the base of the structure, cover bottom of  tarp with mulch or some soil.

Advantages over the Beediverse Yurt is that with John’s field shelter you don’t have to deal with fitting a tarp over a hexagon roof with a hole it it.  It is not easy.  The field shelter’s roof is simply a piece of plywood.  John’s mason bee field shelter is very economical. 
Both the yurt and John’s field shelter release excess heat.  The yurt has an 8″ diameter hole in the center of the roof which lets out excess heat, but keeps it nice an cozy for the bees.  The gap between the tarp and roof releases excess heat from John’s shelter.  Shortly, I will be placing the yurt onto our web site for gardeners who would like to try the Beediverse yurt.

Here is John’s list of Materials  and instructions:
   1-9×12 tarp – blue
   6 – lath strips or equivalent
   1-42x72x1/2 or better plywood for back side
   1-42x48x3/8 plywood, primed one side for roof
   4-2×2 or 2×3 x96 posts- for vertical support
   4 or 6 ell brackets for shelf support
  
   Drive posts into earth at 42 inch intervals, attach back plate on north side, then roof with overhang. Provide bracing with lath at 45 degree angle for wind. Keep front posts 6 inches higher than back to run rain.
   Wrap with tarp leaving 6 inch opening at the front[south]. Use 1 1/2 in. screws at grommet holes for ease of attachment and removal. Attach ell brackets for shelf support as required.
   Now your bees will much warmer and so much busier.

  

John starts off with setting 4 sturdy posts into the ground. 
Then secures a 1/4 ” sheet of slightly slanting plywood onto the 4 posts. 
Between 2 posts, he attaches – with screws a 1/2 sheet of plywood. 
He attaches shelving to the plywood and the two posts. 
Nests are set onto shelves.
Here is a closer look at the shelving. 
On the right hand side are routered wooden nests. 
On the left are boxes with angled 1″ wide slats with
Quicklock trays inside the box.
Blue shelter complete. 
Once nests are in place with bees are set out in emerging boxes,
tarp is wrapped around all 4 sides- leaving a gap of at least 8″
between roof (1/4 sheet of plywood) and the top of the tarp. 
Note wood slats are stapled over tarp  and onto posts to keep them place.

  

This is the second version with a  cross piece
that helps stabilize the structure.


 



I also chatted with John from Delta.  He has been doing mason bees for quite a few years now and he is a true experimenter.  Every year he comes up with ideas that he tries out.  On my visit this time, he told me that for the first time last year he was able to beat the wind.  He has a very cold wind coming off the sea in the early spring.  He had seen the various yurt design and found them too complex. I saw his design, and I think it is a good one.  It is simple and anyone can set it up.  Last year it worked well.  It works similarly like a yurt, but you do not have a hole in the hexagonal roof.  More on this subject when John sends me his pictures and a story.
Aan update- we could not figure out what to call this structure at first.  A Mason Bee Field Shelter describes it nicely.

If any one has  story to share, send me pictures and a story about bees and pollination-  Thanks.  I think a lot of people will enjoy reading it.  On average, 70 pages are read on this blog every day.  Quite amazing.

The farmer asked us if we could place additional mason bees into his orchard besides the ones going into  Charlie’s yurt located at the front of the orchard.  We chose a spot in the middle of his orchard, away from Charlie’s yurt.  The orchard is located in the Fraser valley, BC.

  • Our very first job in the orchard was to dig a hole for a post.  Here is Tim digging a hole with a post-hole digger.  The yurt will be tied to this post, so it does not topple over in a strong wind.

  •  All parts of the yurt were hauled to the site in a wheelbarrow.  The wheelbarrow contains uprights and tarp that goes around the yurt.  On the ground you can see the roof hexagon and the ground hexagon.  The white roof tarp is on top of both hexagons.

We assembled the roof by inserting 6 metal rods into the hexagon and the roof center piece. The six metal rods keep the roof tarp at a nice slope to keep the rain from pooling on the tarp.  The roof-tarp is then stapled onto the center piece, and then onto the roof-hexagon.

  • The ground-hexagon was set down in place adjacent to the post.

  •  Using screws and a drill, 3 uprights were attached to the ground-hexagon.  A drill and a bag of screws are in the foreground.

  • The fully assembled roof was screwed into position at the top of the three uprights.

  • The yurt was completed by attaching remaining uprights and stapling the tarp surrounds under the roof tarp.  Finally a rope was used to tie down yurt to the post.
Now that this yurt is in place, the next thing is to hang Highrises in place, and set out mason bee cocoons.

This week I have been busy setting up yurts to house my mason bee cocoons. This is critical in areas where spring weather may be cool and wet. The inside of a yurt environment provides mason bees with warmer temperatures than outside temperatures. These warmer temperatures are more suitable for developing bees and growing bees successfully. For this reason, yurts or similar type structures are the way of the future for mason bees.

Our newest yurt, model D27 or D27Yurt is compact (3ft in diameter) sturdy, can hold 27 highrises and is easy to assemble. Each yurt can be put together in 2-3 hours with a screwdriver, drill and a pair of pliers. Three D27Yurts will be set out in different locations to test their effectiveness.

I am excited to have all cocoons set into yurts this year. I will be setting up a total of 5 yurts. Each yurt has the capacity of holding 648 nesting tunnels at each of 3 levels. a capacity of 1944 nesting holes.  At each of 3 levels, there is space for 9 Highrises (72 nesting tunnels per Highrise). Of course temperatures will be higher at the top levels compared to the lower levels, but more about differing temperatures inside the yurt in later blogs. Two yurts in use were designed and made by Charlie F. The remaining yurts will be the new D27Yurt.

This is Charlie’s yurt.  The tarp is 3 years old and is still in good shape.  We checked for holes in the tarp and found a few where the wood rubs the tarp.  We taped some duct tape over the few holes we found.  It is ready for hanging Highrises and setting out cocoons.

I have even set up a D27Yurt on the deck of my home. Previously I had 3 boxes (2 x 2 x1.5ft) attached onto the wall of my home. In each box I used to set out an assortment of nesting trays and houses. This site is less attractive now because my peach tree shades that part of the house. The deck receives more direct sun than any other part of my garden- so it should be a good site for my bees. Yesterday, the Highrises were hung into a D27Yurt at the home site. The sun came out for a brief period and temperatures rose to 80F inside the yurt! It is nearly time to set out the cocoons. The Peach tree is beginning to fill out their buds.

Tim and a re-bar yurt

You may wonder about my fascination with yurts.  This fascination with yurts has been with me since I saw the yurts in Saskatchewan and at the same time the realization that yurts of this type would be a good structure for mason bee housing.  A yurt might just be the answer for creating a warm environment at a time of year when temperatures are often cool.  I think cool spring weather is our biggest problem in being able to produce lots of mason bees.  Even under cloudy and windy conditions temperatures are quite a bit warmer inside the yurt then outside.

The re-bar yurt was constructed by J.Gaskin.  Re-bar makes it as strong as the yurts of Saskatchewan (these were  made from iron pipe) and because of this strength, nests could be hung from the yurt itself.  Also, it could hold a significant number of nests, like in the alfalfa fields for alfalfa leaf cutter bee pollination.  The re-bar at the base of the yurt could be pushed into the dirt for added stability.

Hole in roof. Re-bar is welded to metal
ring.  Note white tarp was used for the roof.
Skirt buried under soil to prevent air
 movement  into yurt from base of the
wall.

This yurt consisted of 3 rings of re-bar and 8 verticals.  When I draped the material around the framework, I found that another ring of re-bar would have been useful at the height where the re-bar was bent to form the roof. Also, when hanging up the Highrises inside the yurt, I found that the Highrises were not easy to attach to the re-bar.  A special hook of some sort would make it easier to hang Highrises on the wall and would make it easy for removing Highrises for harvesting and cleaning.

Cocoon Release houses.
Each holding about 200 cocoons.
Highrises filled with a variety of interlocking Quicklock
 nesting  trays.  Note painted letters on front of nests to
help bees orient to their nesting tunnel.
                        
This yurt worked well for the bees. The size definitely makes it more suitable for commercial use rather than for use in the home garden. It was too big for a 4×4 and had to be hauled to the site by a farm vehicle.
Now all we have to do is design one that is suitable for the home gardens, one that can be used for small orchards and work for the larger commercial acreages. 
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