search the Beediverse Blog


Inside a mason bee nest

This is how some insects overwinter, protected from the winter elements and predators, until the following spring.  When you open  routered nesting tunnels or Beediverse Corn nesting trays, you may find all kinds of insects using the nesting tunnels.  
The top row consists of leaf cutter bee cocoons.  It is difficult to see the individual compartments each containing a cocoon.  Leaf pieces tend to overlap from one cell to another.  Different shades of green probably means that pieces were chewed off from different species of plants.  
The mid row contains  pupae of the resin bee.  Resin bees use tree resin as cell liners and dividers.  The bee larvae feeds during the summer months, until it grows into a pupae.  This little yellow ‘grub’ overwinters in this life stage form  until warm temperatures allow it to develop into an adult bees.
The 3rd and lowest nesting tunnel contains the mason bee or the spring mason bees Osmia lignaria.  It uses mud to make its compartments- save from predators and the weather.
All three insects are pollinators.  Leaf cutter bees and Resin bees generally pollinate during the summer months, whereas Mason bees pollinate in the early spring.
When opening nesting tunnels, I return the nesting trays to their housing with the resin bee pupae and leaf cutter bee cocoons intact.  I remove the mason bee cocoons, and process them.  Processing these cocoons means removing the mud and any mites that may be attached to them.
Photo by Mike N., North Vancouver, BC
A great photo by Mike N. of Vancouver, BC.  It shows 3 out of 4 occupied nesting tunnels. The three occupied nesting tunnels are full of overwintering solitary summer bees. The upper nesting tunnel was not used by any insect.  The middle two nesting tunnels are filled with cocoons of a bee species that uses masticated leaf material for the chamber walls and partitions.  You can see the greenish material on the sides of the cells.  The pale yellow and orange pellets over the surface of the cocoons are fecal pellets produced by the developing and feeding larval stage.  The different colours show you that this bee foraged for pollen from two different plant species.
In the 3rd row from the top look at the contents.   The 5th and 7th compartment (counting from the left) do not contain a cocoon.  What it does contain is a load of pollen that the female bee has deposited in the cell.  The pollen is still present because the new bee in its larval or grub stage has died, leaving the pollen.  This can happen under cold weather conditions.  Bee larvae basically starve since it is too cold to eat.
The 4th and lowest nesting tunnel contains resin bees.  These are solitary bees that use resin or tree sap to make their nest partitions and nest walls.  The resin is rock hard and is great protection against any predators who might want to feed on them.  The life stage is actually the pupal stage.  This is the way it overwinters.  In the summer months each pupa grows into an adult bee, and when the resin softens, adults emerge and begin the cycle over again.
When you find these occupants in your nests, leave them the way they are in the nesting tunnel.  These occupants are beneficial to your garden.  They will pollinate your plants during the summer months. Close the nest and set it out where offspring will emerge when the temperature is right.

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Popular Posts

Ezy-harvest of tubes- and it is!

Ezy-harvest of tubes- and it is!

January 4th, 2014

Cardboard tubes are used as nesting material for mason bees.  Tubes are one of the many different ty[...]

How many mason bees do I need to pollinate my small orchard.

How many mason bees do I need to pollinate my small orchard.

December 28th, 2013

A question from Gary, WA.  "Approximately how many bees do  I need to pollinate  17 fruit tr[...]

Today- Beediverse blog read by 65 people.

Today- Beediverse blog read by 65 people.

January 4th, 2014

Whow, today was a busy day on this blog.  Usually we have about 30-35 readers of this blog per day. [...]

Nesting with abundance- Frank

Nesting with abundance- Frank

January 23rd, 2014

"Hi Margriet .. I'm a little late in sending you my usual "annual report" on the cocoon harvesting b[...]

Optimize your cocoon production by candling

Optimize your cocoon production by candling

December 11th, 2013

Here is something else to do besides cleaning and preparing for spring.   A nifty conversion of a 6v[...]