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Field shelters

Here are another couple of stacked large box-like structures to protect mason bee houses during the pollination season,



Stacked box Sysem for pollinating field crops



The small boxes with holes at the front are ‘emergence boxes” for releasing bees  (contain 100-200 mason bee cocoons).  In this setup, there are 8 on the left hand side of the upper shelf and 3 on the upper shelf on the right hand side. I ran out of emergence boxes, and had to use an old bird nest (upper LHS).   

One problem with this structure is that it catches the wind and it makes it more difficult for bees to fly in and out of the nest. The wind also makes it colder around the nests.

These stacked boxes were set on top of  blue bins since we ran out of wooden pallets.
Note the electric fence used to prevent bear damage.  For increased stability, 3 posts were hammered into the ground and nailed to the boxes.  
Looking back to these structures, the yurt is a dream to use.  In the next few blogs, I will be writing about our yurt designed by Charley Ford.  The uprights are no problem , but the roof design is  a bit tricky.
Our very first yurt was made out of wood lath, 6 sided and covered in tarp.   The tarp was stapled to the wooden frame.  The yurt was set onto a wooden pallet to get it above the wet ground. We checked the inside temperatures by setting up thermometers and recording temperatures over several weeks.  Temperatures were higher than outside temperatures and bees did not get caught in the tarp.  We used it for a season, and it worked well.  But of course lathe is not strong enough for long time use.  We also needed a sturdier structure to hold all the nests.  We also needed a simpler roof design. 

Yurts of all colours in the distance.

 These prairie yurts make pollination feasible since leafcutter bee nests are protected from the wind and rain.  Temperatures inside the yurt are warm under windy conditions and on very hot days, excess heat escapes through the roof.  It seemed that this structure moderated both cool and hot temperatures.

We saw two designs  that consisted of a metal framework and surrounds of tarp.

The metal framework consisted of  one inch square tubing, welded together into a Octagon.



In this yurt, the roof consisted of 8 metal bars, bent to make a sloping roof.  Note that the tubes leave an 8″ diameter hole in the roof.


I found out later, that these very heavy structures were left in the field all year round.  Of course the tarp was removed when nests were removed.  Sometimes fields of alfalfa are burned with the metal part of the yurt still in the field.  Because of their weight, you would need a good size truck and some kind of a lift to haul them onto the truck.

I thought this would be a good system for farmers who have heavy duty equipment, welding capabilities and large acreages to pollinate.

But a structure is needed so that small operators with a few thousand mason bees or more can be more successful in gardens and small orchards.


The tarp was held onto the frame with plastic ties threaded through tarp grommets.


Most of the leafcutter bees flew through the door opening, but a few, perhaps the disoriented bees, exited through the roof.

Even with a stiff breeze, it was nice and warm inside the yurt.  Not too hot, like the plastic molded yurt.

Since that time, we have tried quite a few different designs using different materials.  We do know that we are sticking to tarp material.  Tarps work and are readily available.  More on some of our designs in the next blog.



The framework of this yurt consists of 8 pieces of metal.  These are welded together using a center ring.  There are 3 alfalfa leaf cutter bees visible flying through the roof -vent hole.

 



A plastic tie used to hold tarp to metal framework of the yurt adjacent to door.

 



This is a view through the front opening of the yurt showing styrofoam nests hung from the framework, and against the walls of the yurt.  The wooden box just visible below the doorway horizontal bar, contained leafcutter bee cocoons.  Most had emerged when we looked.

 

The first time I saw yurts was in 2005. 

Strange structures in a prairie alfalfa field

In 2005, we travelled across Canada for a holiday. While we were travelling through Saskatchewan, I saw these strange structures in alfalfa fields.  I guessed that these structures could be housing alfalfa leaf cutter bees used to pollinate alfalfa for seed production.  A few years prior to this, I had seen wooden sheds, crates and empty buses used to house alfalf leaf cutter bee nests.  We looked inside and saw that it did house leaf cutter bee nests.  However, even though there were quite a few small vent holes and an open door, it was very hot inside.  This yurt was molded and made of plastic.



Molded yurt for housing alfalfa leaf cutting bees



Inside this molded yurt, styrofoam nests were hung from the walls with baling wire.  One sheet of styrofoam nests was strapped to another.  In another yurt styrofoam nests were hung from the walls.  The patterns drawn on the nest are orientation cues for returning bees.




Styrofoam alfalfa leaf cutter bee nests hung from the walls of the molded yurt

 

A emergence tray of loose alfalfa leaf cutter bee cocoons.

 Colourful yurts made of tarp material were also seen.  The roof was made out of translucent white tarp and the wall was either made of white, orange or blue tarp.


Yurts made of tarps in the distance.

 

Tim is having a closer look at a tarp yurt in a blooming alfalfa field.

  

 When we stepped inside, the temperature was probably around 25C.  Not too hot and just right for alfalfa leaf cutter bees.  Alfalfa leaf cutter bees need at least 20C.  I thought that this yurt design was much better than the molded yurt.  The temperature inside the yurt was just right for these bees. The only difference that I could see between the tarp yurt and the molded plastic yurt was the larger roof hole in the tarp yurt.

…More on this design next time.



A mason bee on a cabbage flower.

  Our first yurts were made out of wood. and the nests were set up inside the yurt.


These are two yurts, 6′ and 8′ in diameter.  Dick Scarth and John McDonald discussing the merits of yurts.  Nesting trays were set up inside the yurt, stacked on top of wooden boxes.    Even on a cloudy day as when this picture was taken, it was nice and warm inside the yurt.  The cover was made of tarp material.  Note at the base of the wall, the tarp is covered with saw dust to prevent wind from entering underneath the wall of the yurt.  Also note the elcetric fence to prevent bear predation.




Quicklock trays set side by side on wooden boxes inside the yurt



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