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Monthly Archives: March 2011

A few days ago on March 20th, I drove into Vancouver and Stanley Park to see if spring had arrived in the city. Trees still don’t have their leaves, but some bushes and flowering trees are out.  These flowering trees and bushes are critical for insects to survive the cooler early spring weather.
At first sight, this is a very uninteresting side-walk,
one that is purely functional.  This was the case
until I drove by .  I had to have another look.
On closer inspection, this hedge was a Pieris japonica hedge.
The scent was awesome.  It seems that trimming the hedge
stimulates more flower production.
Pieris japonica, flowers in full bloom.
A Vancouver residential street.  No leaves were visible on these trees.
Blooming heather plants in a rockery.
Blooming cherry blossoms.
Stanley Park, Vancouver BC
Stanley Park, Vancouver BC.  North shore mountains in background.

 

Stanley park, Vancouver BC.  No leaves on these giants yet!
Grass was green and crocuses were out.

 

Brian Minter of Minter Country Gardens invited me to be part of the 1 hour radio broadcast this morning. It was a beautiful sunny drive to Minter Country Gardens in Chilliwack, BC.  I arrived at 8. 30 in time for a coffee at their restaurant.  At 9am sharp the show started and we were kept busy answering a variety of great questions.  Brian covered questions on pruning, scented flowers, lawn care, tree care, blueberry varieties and much more.  It was a very lively and interesting question and answer period.   A few of the many Questions and Answers were:
Q:  Can you buy mason bees?
A:  Yes, at Garden stores, wild bird stores and grocery stores with a garden centers.  Mason bees come in small vials containing 10 hibernating mason bees.  They are ready to set out with a mason bee home.
Q:  What are summer mason bees?
A:  These native bees are similar to the early spring mason bee, but come out anywhere from May to October.  There are hundreds of species of summer mason bees out there.  Each species is out for about a month, pollinating whatever bloom is out at that time.  All you do is set out a Summer mason Bee Home with smaller nesting tunnels then the ones used for spring mason bees (less than 1/4″).  You will be surprised that after a year you will have 1-3 species of summer mason bees nesting in the house.
Q: I have lots of bees in the garden, should I provide housing for these bees?
A:  Housing helps to protect bees from birds and other insects that predate on bees.  Housing gives the bees an opportunity to survive and produce more offspring for next year.  I think the most enjoyable thing though about setting up housing for mason bees is that you can watch them fly about the nest and know where to find them.

Another session is in the works for early summer and cover more about the Summer Mason Bees.

The best way to find the kind of flowers bees like is to go shopping on a sunny day.  Wild bumble bees, honey bees and mason bees will be at the flowers that produce nectar.

There is an old variety of red heather that is very attractive to bees because it produces nectar.  I think it is called Kramer red.  If someone can confirm the attractiveness of this variety of Heather- that would be great.

Of course  the shrub Pieris japonica is a great source of nectar too.

Patricia at Garden Works will be doing a seminar on “The Secret life of Mason Bees”.  She has been looking after mason bees for 14 years and has had all kinds of adventures with mason bees.  She at one time nurtured bees in a aquarium because they had emerged way before spring blossoms opened up.  She fed them by presenting blooming heather to them every 2 days and successfully released them when spring really arrived.
Sunday 20th March at 11am
Garden Works
1916 Oak Bay
Victoria, BC V8R 1C7
give them a call and let them know you are coming.  250 595 4200

Spring is notorious for its rainy days and stormy weather amongst some beautiful sunny days.

If you set out all your mason bee cocoons out at one time, bees might catch a bit of sunny weather, pollinate your fruit trees and produce offspring for next year.

But, if bad weather arrives and it stays around for 2 weeks, it is likely you will not get any mason bee offspring nor will you have any pollination. 

With a few mason bees, there is no choice but to set out your cocoons at one time.  Hopefully the weather is reasonable.

However if you have a handful of bees, maybe 50, 100, 200 etc, you can divide them up into 3 or 4 batches.  Set the first group of cocoons out about once week before tree fruit begins to bloom.

Then, make a schedule and write it on a calendar, perhaps setting out the 2nd, 3rd and 4th batch of cocoons out every week.

If the rain does come, it will wipe out one of the batches, but not every batch of mason bee cocoons.

Good luck!

It is all about timing…..

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