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Daily Archives: January 30, 2012

Frank M.  contacted me recently about his findings at his yearly mason bee workshop.  A most interesting series of photos- with permission.

“This photo shows some extraordinary wiry frass, even more wiry than the material that I showed you last year from the 2010 harvest.  Any ideas?  There is also some fluffy stuff in the same chamber and the one next to it, similar to the material in one of the images on one of your blogs.”
This beautifully constructed chamber inside a routered piece of wood, has concave mud walls.  It normally contains one masn bee cocoon, but something has entered it.  The chamber contains frass- or insect fecal material.  According to Bosch and Kemp (2009)  wiry frass is likely produced by one of two insects found in masn bee nesting tunnels.  One is the cuckoo bee.  If there is a cocoon amongst the mass of frass- then it would be the cuckoo bee.  If there is no cocoon- it is most likely the spider beetle.  It is about 2-3mm long with 4 white patches on its back and long attennae.  Both insects eat and destroy the mason bee larvae and its food.  They both invade the chamber when it is pretty close to being sealed by the bee.

Ground nesting bees usually emerge in June when soil temperatures increase from the cooler spring temperatures.  These bees are often more than a foot down in the ground.  Usually one bee uses one entrance, but in some species a few bees use the same entrance, but different nesting tunnels.

This aggregation is in a school yard ( Burnaby, BC).  When Alie told me about it, she showed me the area adjacent to a small fence.  the kids came out for a show and tell, and they were fascinated.  Anyone know the type of bee?

The soil is quite hard in this area and when the sun shines, the ground is always in the sun.  if you look closely, you can see little mounds of earth deposited by the emerging bees.  The scale becomes a little clearer when you see the children’s feet in the area.  When all the children were back in their class, I checked out to see the scope of the area.  It was quite large  (10 x 10 m or 30 x 30 feet). 

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