My name is Dr Margriet Dogterom and am the founder and owner of Beediverse. I write this blog for all who love bees and who want to learn more about these wonderful creatures.
Flowers provide food for bees in the form of nectar and pollen. Thus flowers are critical to their survival. However, not all flowers produce pollen and nectar. The best way to find flowers that are attractive to bees is to go to a garden center on a sunny day. Bees will point the way to attractive flowers, the ones that will provide them pollen or nectar or both. The ultimate for bees is the have a garden that has continuous bloom from spring through the summer.
A very interesting article by Bosch and Kemp from Utah State University in Logan, on the effect of overwintering temperatures. This is a summary of their research results.
|Mass release of alfalfa
leaf cutter bee cocoons.
I started this article some time ago, before I had all the pictures in place. Even though most mason bees have been set out, I think it is good to compare mason bee release systems to the commercial Alfalfa Leaf cutter bee industry mas release system. I think we can learn a lot from the 50 year old alfalfa leaf cutter bee industry.
How to set out bees, still in their cocoons, depends on quantity of cocoons, type of nests and whether predators exist in the area.
|Leaf cutter bee nests|
Alfalfa leaf cutter bee producers in the Canadian Prairies, usually mass release leaf cutter bee cocoons on trays. Thousands of cocoons are placed on trays. Trays are set up inside yurts or similar structures that house leafcutter bee nests. Three weeks prior to setting cocoons out, leafcutter bees are put through a warming period so that bee emergence is relatively fast. Trays are out for less than a week. A mere 7 days or so is little time for winds and predators to upset the trays full of cocoons.
|Prairie yurt with a tray of cocoons
set on top of nests.
It is a different story with mason bees. Emergence is often longer than a week, especially under cool spring temperatures. The number of cocoons set out are often less than a hundred or several hundred and less often in the thousands.
Setting out a few cocoons (less than 100) small vials with a bee size hole in the lid works well. Plastic vials are usually rodent proof. The space underneath the roof of the Beediverse Highrise is a great place to place the vial full of cocoons. This space is protected from the sun, but receives the heat through the roof.
|the Highrise roof protects vials
of cocoons from
predation and sun.
|Beediverse Emergence box
protects cocoons from predation
and the elements.
When setting out 100 or more cocoons, small vials are too cumbersome and too time consuming. It would be very easy to set out cocoons in open trays. I have tried setting cocoons out in trays, even in covered trays, but it has been less successful. Their extended emergence becomes problematic. Winds sometimes tip trays onto the ground Trays also make cocoons more vulnerable to predation from animals such as spiders, squirrels, mice, and wasps. To decrease the chance of predation a wooden box with an exit hole such as the Beediverse Emergence Shelters gives the best result. Two are sold for $19.95.
|Small and large release boxes.
Dave M. Port Alberni BC
I find these extremely handy. I fit about 200 cocoons into each one. I make notes on the outside to tell me where cocoons were produced. This is handy because after spring emergence, I can check what the emergence was the previous spring. Emergence should be 95% or more.
David M. from Port Alberni uses a square box with a hinged lid. Each box, with two layers of cocoons, holds about 2000 cocoons.
If you have a system you would like to share with our readers, email me a description and pictures.
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There are two simple ways of marking a nest to help bees find their nesting tunnel- with colour and design.
Honey bees can see hues of blues and yellows. As far as we know mason bees do likewise since these are the colour of flowers attractive to bees. Other colours like green and red are probably seen as shades of grey. Use a water based paint with a brush or finger paint designs onto nest.
Design need to be kept simple and not complex. Complex designs will likely not help bees find their homes.
Use one letter across the face of a nest. If it looks a little bare- add a coloured dot above the V and below to O for example. Simple designs consist of letters/numbers such as:
V O T L 7
No design is ok too, but increased searching time for their nest, decreases foraging time for provisions and egg laying time.
|Simple designs will assist bees in finding their nesting tunnels.
The rough edges of the lines are a helpful addition to the
” I noticed something was trying to dig into the finished mud cap on one of the tunnels and I got to thinking. Once sealed there is no need for it to be exposed. Avery dots…..you can write the date on them, covers the tunnel for better safety from pests.
You can also monitor the hive easier and see when new tunnels are sealed and tell when the fun has stopped for the summer.”
Great idea Cal!