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Inside a mason bee nest

   When bee finds a nesting tunnel in wood, plastic or some other material, the female bee will place mud inside the cavity to create the perfectly shaped cavity for her offspring. 

 

This photo shows two nesting tunnels (half of two nesting tunnels) containing two cocoons inside their mud cavities.  

When nesting trays are not completely snapped togethr, a gap is present and lets air into the nesting tunnel.  Consequently the mason bees muds over the gap  forming a super – wall.

From: Harriet W
Subject: weird yellow fluffy substance found

Message Body:
When I was recently taking down my mason bee hotels and houses, I found a yellow fluffy substance in several of the boxes.  It seems almost like wall insulation.  One seemed to have cocoons in it.

Do you know what this is?  Should I just clean the cacoons and boxes as usual with Chlorox? Do I just throw this stuff away?  leave it in the recycle?

 I have tried to take the pictures and enclose them here.  One is clearly in the well for the new cocoons, the other (with several pieces) comes from within one of the houses.  I am quite curious about what you think they are.  I also cannot determine whether they are beneficial to my bees, or not: ex. should I try to “clean” the ones that seem to have some solid masses within?
 
Many thanks for your time. 

Hi Harriet- Others have found this type of insect in their mason bee homes.  I usually place odd things like this in an emergence box, so I can re-examine it early next spring.  We are still not sure what it is.

UPDATE BELOW

An interesting observation from Diane.

“This morning I peaked into small observation nest purchased some years ago
 and noted a bright red color on top surface of one edge of two
cells…do you know what this might be?

Diane
Ohh how lovely.  The bee has collected pollen from two sources, one flower
with yellow pollen and the other flower with orange pollen.

By touching the anthers of flowers you can see there is quite a lot of
pollen colors out there.  One flower that has bright orange pollen is theTiger lily.

 Margriet



This is a picture of a 3 nesting tunnel observation/viewing nest.  The lowest tunnel is empty.  The middle tunnel contains 3 completed chambers with pale yellow pollen.  Two cells ( of the four) in the upper channel have bright orange and yellow pollen as part of the pollen lump.  There is even a bee in the upper nesting tunnel.
 Thanks so much…another bit of learning…this is fun!   Diane
Here is a picture of the same nest taken about a month later. 
Cocoons are fully formed  with adult bees inside.

Here is Frank’s third photo. 

“015 shows channels with healthy cocoons, but I’ve never seen so much bee frass!!  The only part of the cocoons visible in the image is where the cocoon surfaces were tight against the base of the overlying tray. Othewise all the free space around the cocoons is packed with frass.  Have you ever seen the likes of it?”
The Dutch would describe the frass to look like a sandwich spread called Chocolate Hail!  Not as yummy though.
I have on occasion seen frass in these quantities.  I think it means that these bee larvae were well fed and then produced lots of frass or bee feces.  These healthy bees will have the energy to eat their way out of their cocoon and start a successful nest.
Another interesting item  in this photos is those tiny pale blond spots all over the wood and over the cocoons.  These are the pollen feeding mites.  If these mites are not removed, mites wait for the bee to open the cocoon, the mite sneaks in and attaches itself to the bee- to set up house in the next nest.
Here is Frank’s photo number 017 
It shows a wooden tray infested with foreign larvae, plus at least four different-looking types of wiry frass.  Are they all from the same insect and  reflect differences in diet, or might they actually represent different organisms?”
The upper channel possibly contains the pupae of the houdini fly.  The lower channel has 3 chambers with wiry frass that probably belongs to the spider beetle.
Lovely photos Frank.  Sorry we could not be more clear on the ID of these insects.  Let me know if you have placed them in a petri dish to develop into full adult.
Here is photo 011 by Frank M. 
Frank writes “011 shows just how abundant these foreign larvae were in some cases.  In this image, they are actually spilling out of the channels because the upper part of the channel was filled too. Notice also that at the right-hand side of the image there is a chamber filled with wiry frass that is different from the stuff in image 004.”

These grubs, may well be the ’fruit fly’ Joe S. took and I wrote about on Jan 7th 2011 in this blog.  Joe mentioned these fruit flies had red eyes.  A friend of Joe’s searched the web and came up with “houdini fly”  Cacoxenup-inbagator flies.

If you still have these grubs, set them up in a moist warm environment such as a petri dish and see what comes out.  What an interesting project for a child who is interested in science.  The search continues.

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