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Monthly Archives: April 2011

” Hi & thank you for your response to my prior eMail of several weeks back.   Now I have another question.   First I have some good news.   It seems most of my  bees had not hatched from their tubes before the cold & stormy weather hit us.   Today there are lots of bees near the tubes & in my garden too!   There is a lot more debris below the tubes which means many bees from deeper in the tubes    have made their way out – mostly females to boot!

Now the question:  The bees are going back inside the “used tubes”.   Will they re-use the old cardboard tubes or is there another reason they continue to enter last year’s tubes?   Should I remove the tubes?    I have 2 of your houses with the colored Eco-Quicklock blocks.   I’ve added paper liners to about 20% of the holes & will see if the bees have a preference for the lined holes.   Bees are beginning to use the houses but it’s too early to tell if there is a preference. 

 Thanks for your attention.”




Hi Tony,
You have come up against one of the most difficult things to do in mason bee keeping i.e. get the bees to use new nesting-tunnels while the old ones are still present.  For the most part, it is not possible to exclude their use of old nesting tunnels.  Because mason bees re-use nesting tubes, that may be deceased, it is better to remove cocoons from nesting tubes in the fall- then the bees do not have a choice.  As soon as bees re-enter the old tubes, they are laying eggs.  In other words, if you remove them now, you would be destroying the new bees.  I would keep everything like you have it and in the fall- open all tubes, and harvest the cocoons.  Good luck.  Margriet


“Hi,   Thank you for your response.   This coming fall I’ll do as you suggest & harvest the cocoons.  Tony L.”

“Hi Margriet,

I called you yesterday from the 16th/Oak community garden about a strange pest we found in our mason bee hive. They looked like larva with little red heads and were crawling over the cocoons in one of the trays. Do you have any idea what they might be from the attached images?
By the way I’ve read your book cover and cover and if I may be so bold I’d like to offer a small suggestion. Being a novice mason bee keeper I found it really hard to imagine and identify the pests you were talking about with the black and white drawings. Perhaps in future additions if budgets permit you could include actual photographs of the critters you describe? I’m sure the community at large would offer many for your book :) In all other respects that book was invaluable! 
I’ve also recently heard of people not using the bleach/water solution to clean cocoons but to use sand instead as an abrasive to remove mites. Have you or others ever tried the technique? 
Many Thanks,
Maria”
Hi Maria, 
Thank you for your pictures and comments.  
 Scavenger type beetle larvae.  Note size in comparison with 
mason bee cocoon in upper right hand side of picture.



Cscavenger type  Beetle larvae are reddish brown and can be recognized by their long bristles on each larval segment.



  • This pest is a carpet beetle (Page 90 Pollination with Mason Bees by M.D Dogterom.  These beetles feed on pollen provisions and nest debris.   
  • Yes, a book in colour would be awesome.  Like you mentioned, budget permitting.  It is definitely in the works for a future edition.
  • Yes, I have heard about the sand/abrasive technique to remove mites.  I have not used it myself.  I use a metal mesh as an abrasive surface to remove mites, and do a final rinse in bleach to remove any molds and parasitic fungi.  Using an abrasive surface like a metal screen works very well.  The sand is also used as an abrasive technique to scour mites from the cocoons.  I prefer not to deal with sand and find this a definite advantage.

Margriet

“Just wanted to drop a line to say how much my wife and I have enjoyed having mason bees these past 10 years (or more), I really can’t remember how long ago we got them. We received them from Dr. Margriet Dogterom at an information session she held in Maple Ridge. We started with the drilled blocks and then began rolling our own tubes from newspaper. This was how we assisted our “girls” until three years ago when we discovered the cardboard tubes. These worked much better, however the squirrels found the tubes delicious and easy to remove from our blocks. I fouled their nefarious plans two years ago when I placed our blocks in an old outdoor fireplace I had. I just cleaned it out and put the blocks inside it and closed the metal mesh door. The metal “bee palace” was then placed in a prominent sunny location and everything seemed to work great.

Our two blueberry bushes are always packed solid, and the pear tree is also often overburdened with fruit.

We were very excited to purchase our new “Bee House” this year and when we found out the design was courtesy of Dr. Dogterom we were certain we had found the ideal product. We raced home with it, looking forward to putting the girls into their new digs.

Much to our disappointment we just discovered when we got home that tragically our tubes that were removed from the blocks got wet last night in the downpour. The wind must have blown the rain into the container. I fear most of the brood are probably dead. I salvaged 4 tubes that were completely untouched and dry, then went to the nursery and bought two more tubes.

I’m certain with the new corn/plastic blocks and the ability to readily remove the cocoons with little risk of damage, next year we will be back up to a large colony. The new blocks will also mean I can keep things much cleaner, so the girls will be healthier.

Saw a big bumblebee yesterday. They always make me smile.”

The farmer asked us if we could place additional mason bees into his orchard besides the ones going into  Charlie’s yurt located at the front of the orchard.  We chose a spot in the middle of his orchard, away from Charlie’s yurt.  The orchard is located in the Fraser valley, BC.

  • Our very first job in the orchard was to dig a hole for a post.  Here is Tim digging a hole with a post-hole digger.  The yurt will be tied to this post, so it does not topple over in a strong wind.

  •  All parts of the yurt were hauled to the site in a wheelbarrow.  The wheelbarrow contains uprights and tarp that goes around the yurt.  On the ground you can see the roof hexagon and the ground hexagon.  The white roof tarp is on top of both hexagons.

We assembled the roof by inserting 6 metal rods into the hexagon and the roof center piece. The six metal rods keep the roof tarp at a nice slope to keep the rain from pooling on the tarp.  The roof-tarp is then stapled onto the center piece, and then onto the roof-hexagon.

  • The ground-hexagon was set down in place adjacent to the post.

  •  Using screws and a drill, 3 uprights were attached to the ground-hexagon.  A drill and a bag of screws are in the foreground.

  • The fully assembled roof was screwed into position at the top of the three uprights.

  • The yurt was completed by attaching remaining uprights and stapling the tarp surrounds under the roof tarp.  Finally a rope was used to tie down yurt to the post.
Now that this yurt is in place, the next thing is to hang Highrises in place, and set out mason bee cocoons.

In a small orchard in Langley, Apple blossoms are swollen but not in bloom quite yet.  I took this picture in the last week of March.

Although early spring flowers are not abundant, there are many hidden patches of flowers amongst buildings and in gardens. These flowers are important food sources for early bumble bees.

Last week I was lucky enough to get a  few sightings of bumble bees.  All sightings have been in amongst Pieris blossoms. Their flight and movements were fast.

Beautiful cherry blossoms in Blaine WA.   31 March 2011
Same cherry blossoms.  Note the Pieris bush behind
 the tree on the right.  Some of the Pieris blossoms
 are visible on the right hand side of the photo.
Blossoming Pieris above a pond in a Japanese garden.
Vancouver BC 30 March 2011
Heather patch in a Japanese garden
Vancouver BC, 30 March 2011

This week I have been busy setting up yurts to house my mason bee cocoons. This is critical in areas where spring weather may be cool and wet. The inside of a yurt environment provides mason bees with warmer temperatures than outside temperatures. These warmer temperatures are more suitable for developing bees and growing bees successfully. For this reason, yurts or similar type structures are the way of the future for mason bees.

Our newest yurt, model D27 or D27Yurt is compact (3ft in diameter) sturdy, can hold 27 highrises and is easy to assemble. Each yurt can be put together in 2-3 hours with a screwdriver, drill and a pair of pliers. Three D27Yurts will be set out in different locations to test their effectiveness.

I am excited to have all cocoons set into yurts this year. I will be setting up a total of 5 yurts. Each yurt has the capacity of holding 648 nesting tunnels at each of 3 levels. a capacity of 1944 nesting holes.  At each of 3 levels, there is space for 9 Highrises (72 nesting tunnels per Highrise). Of course temperatures will be higher at the top levels compared to the lower levels, but more about differing temperatures inside the yurt in later blogs. Two yurts in use were designed and made by Charlie F. The remaining yurts will be the new D27Yurt.

This is Charlie’s yurt.  The tarp is 3 years old and is still in good shape.  We checked for holes in the tarp and found a few where the wood rubs the tarp.  We taped some duct tape over the few holes we found.  It is ready for hanging Highrises and setting out cocoons.

I have even set up a D27Yurt on the deck of my home. Previously I had 3 boxes (2 x 2 x1.5ft) attached onto the wall of my home. In each box I used to set out an assortment of nesting trays and houses. This site is less attractive now because my peach tree shades that part of the house. The deck receives more direct sun than any other part of my garden- so it should be a good site for my bees. Yesterday, the Highrises were hung into a D27Yurt at the home site. The sun came out for a brief period and temperatures rose to 80F inside the yurt! It is nearly time to set out the cocoons. The Peach tree is beginning to fill out their buds.

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