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Daily Archives: February 5, 2011

This nesting tray contains 5 nesting tunnels.  The upper nesting tunnel contains cocoons with a mud partition between each cocoon.  The mud plug at the left hand side of the nesting tray indicates the entrance /exit.  The larger or female cocoons are at the back of the tunnel (RHS).  Note in the next two nesting tunnels, there are quite a number of compartments, not with a cocoon, but with a pollen lump.

The presence of a pollen lump means that the bee larvae died and did not continue its development into an adult bee.  This can be caused by disease, but can also be caused by cool weather.  Young bees need warmth to feed.  A two week spell of cold weather usually means the demise of these bees.  Unfortunately in this case, the pollen lumps were at the far end of the tunnel and these are the female bees.

This year, many people were not able to produce many mason bee cocoons.  I am sure the weather played a big part in this story.

Scoop tool

Scoops are modified screwdrivers and are a boon to harvesting cocoons.

The angle (more like a sine curve) of the scoop ensures that the tip of the scoop slides under each cocoon and lifts them out of each nesting tray.  No other tool does it so easily.  At the same time as removing cocoons, nesting tunnels are rid of the majority of mud and other debris.  This make the scrubbing process a lot faster.

Cocoons are scooped out of
nesting trays straight into
 a large bucket filled with water.

Scoop cocoons out of nesting trays over a large bucket filled with water.  After about 30 minutes, the water has softened the dirt around cocoons and the dirt drops to the bottom of the bucket.  This is the first step in cleaning cocoons.

Dave M. uses a sieve for the next step.  Using a sieve, a soft stream of water is sprayed over cocoons held in a sieve.  Water removes a lot of debris from cocoons.

Once cocoons are washed, and dried, cocoons can be candled
A bleach wash, drying, screening and candling are the final stages of cleaning cocoons.

A soft stream of water washes a lot of debris from cocoons held in a sieve.
This idea came from Dave M. from  Port Alberni, BC

Small and large release box  with
piano hinged lids

Small release box with simple lid.  Plastic containers are
good for interim storage, but predation dictates a
 more sturdy wooden box.

 Hazelnut is in bloom, bulbs are poking out of the ground…..spring must be near! (Vancouver BC)

When setting out cocoons in large numbers, safety from predation  has to be a key consideration.

Rodents can chew through plastic and paper.  Dave M.from Port Alberni, BC uses a  box with a piano-hinged lid to hold cocoons.

When spring arrives, mason bees emerge from the box ready to start pollinating.

The small box easily holds 2-300 cocoons.  The larger  box holds about 1000 cocoons.

It is best not to layer cocoons more than 1-2 deep.  More than 1-2 layers of cocoons make it more likely that newly emerged bees pick up the rare mite from cocoons as the bee exits from the box.

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