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These photos are bringing back some great memories of my time on the ‘farm’ with mason bees.
We tested various types of nests, and to duplicate these, I bought 50 small office garbage cans.
|A set up used in a mason bee trial
in blueberry field.
I set each one on top of a fence posts.
Unfortunately, bears could not resist going after the small amount of pollen inside the nesting tunnels. Several of the containers were smashed to pieces.
|Mason bee trial in a blueberry field. Bears smashed quite a few of the containers with mason bee nests. In the distance two other containers are visible sitting on top of a post.|
After this, I realized that bears were one of the challenges for keeping mason bees in these fields. I knew that bears go after honey bee hives, and yes, beekeepers kept their hives surrounded by electric fences. But I did not think that bears would go after mason bee nests. I guess early spring bears are hungry and anything goes.
In photos of previous posts, you can see the electric fence surrounding the nests. It is easier to have many nests surrounded by one electric fence, than having numerous locations each with an electric fence.
|Large mason bee nesting area surrounded by
an electric fence.
Steve E from California, contacted me about setting out mason bees in an almond orchard. He asked me for feedback on his idea of constructing a housing unit for mason bees out of a plastic barrel.
” I brought the two plastic tubs into my garage and took this photo of the 2 containers side by side. You can see that the all-blue barrel is uncut, while the white one has a cut-out door of about 12″ x 16″ bordered by black tape. Within the barrel are stacked cinder blocks. You can make out a roll of cardboard tubes within one cinder block. On top of the cinder blocks is a wood bee block.
Cardboard tubes were used at the time and bundles of these were set in the back of the container. To help the bees orient to their nesting tunnel, cotton batten and “1” foam was interspersed amongst the layers of nesting tubes.
The middle of the container was used the most by the bees. On some days, under sunny conditions, it became very hot in the upper section of the container. It looked like bees were avoiding the excessively hot area of tubes. To “cool it down a little, I cut a small hole in the upper part of the “roof” of the container.
There usually is a lip to a garbage container so that the lid can be fastened to the garbage pail. Unfortunately, when the container was on its side, rain pooled in the rim drowning many bees. I cut a drainage hole so that water would not pool in the rim.
The container was set up about 4 feet above the ground to avoid the splash zone and also to avoid the cooler ground temperatures.
When we started using routered nesting trays, these stacks did not fit very easily into the round container.
We learned a lot from this trial.
The yurt was still a few years away!
I have had some questions about candling mason bee cocoons. Joe Sadowski from Burnaby, BC thought of this idea- and it works. Candling is just like candling eggs. In a dark room you shine a bright light under the cocoon. With some experience, you can see the adult mason bee in a fetal position inside the cocoon. You can also see empty cocoons or non- viable cocoons, where the larva has died and not developed into a adult bee.
Here is a batch of mason bee cocoons. Mud has been washed off, and mites have been removed. After washing them, cocoons take about an hour or so to dry and then candling can be done.
Place dry cocoons on a petri dish or similar container,over a 6 Volt flashlight. It is easiest to do the candling in a room without windows.
Turn the lights off in the room and look at the cocoons. You will be able to see right through empty cocoons. In normal light, these cocoons look like normal viable cocoons.
You can also see the viable cocoons with the bee inside the cocoon.
Rock, move and rotate petri dish over the light. The light scatters and allows you to see the non- viable cocoons.
All cocoons sold at Beediverse are candled and non-viable cocoons removed.
NOTE: Usually I would not disturb the cocoons and the pupae like the resin bees, but close up the nest and set the nest outside. The reddish frass and the multiple pupae in one cell, looks like it came from a predator of some kind and I would remove it from the nesting tunnels.
Photo #1. Joe S. from Burnaby, BC showed me this interesting occupant of his Beediverse Quicklock nesting trays. The photo above shows 2 nesting tunnels. The upper tunnel shows a common sight. It looks like sawdust, but actually is a collection of pollen feeding mites amongst pollen. The lower tunnel contains a mason bee cocoon on the left hand side and a group of pupae on the right hand side. The whole cell with the pupae was very sticky. It looks like these insects have consumed a lot of the pollen/ nectar mixture that the female mason bee had collected for her offspring.
We have never seen this inside a mason bee nesting tunnel, and we are wondering what it is.
Photo #2 is a collection of fruit flies. Joe has never seen such persistant fruit fly activity as last year (2010). The question is whether these fruit flies are the same as the pupae in photo number one. If anyone knows if this is the new Cherry fruit fly, please let us know.