This blog includes: management tips on how to keep mason bees, stories and pictures from other mason bee keepers, trends in the industry, research news, interesting links, review of products, events and other interesting items.

I have been a biologist since I was a kid. Then I became a "bee biologist". From bees in my garden to studying them at Simon Fraser University, I still find bees fascinating. Pollination with bees also became a focus when I studied pollination of blueberries. My journey with bees continued into the business world. In 1999 I started my company Beediverse Products and developed a line of products to keep mason bees. I first developed a successful method for harvesting mason bee cocoons and then I developed a line of products including: book,DVD, poster,mason bee homes and tools.

Now, my main interest and enthusiasm is focused on figuring out how to best manage mason bees and produce them by the billions. For this reason we are continually testing new ideas, widgets and gadgets for making the job of keeping mason bees easier and more successful.

Cardboard tubes are used as nesting material for mason bees.  Tubes are one of the many different types of nests available for mason bees.  They are attractive to mason bees and produce a good

Bundle of Ezy-harvest tubes. About half are filed to the end. Note different color mud used to plug up different nests.

Loose bundle of EZy-arvest tubes

Loose bundle of Ezy-harvest tubes

 

 return of mason bees for the following year.  However, cardboard tubes should only be used once ( accumulation of pests and predators over one season) , tubes do not provide protection against parasites and predators  and are usually time consuming to unfurl tubes in order  to harvest and clean cocoons. 

All cardboard tubes are not created equal.  It was originally thought that thick walled cardboard tubes would prevent  parasitization of the bees. We soon found out that even cardboard tubes 40/1000″ (4mm) thick could be parsitized.  It is now evident that these parasites can be reduced  by using net bags in the summer and candling at time of harvest.

To make cardboard tubes easier to use we designed a cardboard tube that allows the easy harvesting of cocoons.  We  designed the EZY-Harvest tubes  that unfurls after an overnight soak.  It is simple! 

Soak for 24-48 hours.  The soaking dissolves the glue and cocoons are released into the water.  some handling and unfurling is needed to release and harvest all cocoons.   Read more about the details in additional blogs.  Dr Margriet Dogterom 

Ezy harvest tubes placed in cold water

  

Soaked tubes unravel and release cocoons.

A question from Anne in the Kootenays (BC).

Starter cottage with nesting tubes

 I was given your starting kit as a gift, and I am not clear if the cocoons 
are to be removed from the nesting tubes for cleaning & where they should 
be stored for a west Kootenay winter. “

Mason Bee cocoons in a Humidity Cooler

 

Bee cocoons inside a nesting tube

Yes, it is always best to remove cocoons for cleaning.  Unfurl  or soak cardboard tubes.  After an overnight soak in cold water the EZY-HARVEST cardboard tubes are easy to open for removing cocoons.
Store cocoons in fridge  until late winter/early spring.  Best to use a humidity chamber.  This keeps cocoons moist at a humidity of  about 60%.  Later in the winter or after January, keep temperature between 2-4C.

Check out our website where there are more details on the humidity cooler.

Dr.Margriet Dogterom

These apples are well pollinated because they are even in shape and of an optimal size.

A question from Gary, WA.  “Approximately how many bees do  I need to pollinate  17 fruit trees.  How many females do you recommend? ”

Good fruit production depends on both the health of the tree and good pollination.  Good pollination means at least 1-2 visits by bees.

The question of how many bees are needed for pollinating a number of fruit trees is a good question.  The answer comes over  a number of years.  If  in successive years fruit production is good and very few fruit are misshapen (because of poor pollination), you have enough bees for the orchard (whatever number you have).

My recommendation is to get 20-60 cocoons  and a mason bee home with nesting tunnels in the first year.  Learn to look after the bees over the course of a year and see how many cocoons your bees have produced.   Besides buying mason bee cocoons, there are a few other ways to augment your mason bee numbers.  Set out a series of nests in your neighbourhood, and better still at someones place that already has mason bees. 

Apple blossoms need 1-2 bee visits for good pollination.

Then watch your fruit production increase often in just one year.  A few bees will do a tremendous amount of work, but in poor weather conditions, you need more bees to get to the  flowers in the short periods of sunny weather.

Good luck.

 

Dr Margriet Dogterom

 

 

 

Thompson River voodoos (BC)

It is holiday time.  We travelled   into the Interior of BC after a snow fall and during a cold snap.  The prefect time for some x-country skiing.  We even saw some moose tracks although we did not see the moose. It was a surprise to see the Thompson River  still free of ice with little snow on its banks.   Winter is here to stay for  while.

Wishing everyone good holiday cheer, a Merry Christmas and a great New Year.

 

Moose tracks in the snow

Tracks, tracks, tracks 

Ponderosa PInes in winter
Ponderosa Pines in winter (BC)

Ponderosa pines in winter mist

Tiny parasitic wasp of mason bees

Here is something else to do besides cleaning and preparing for spring.   A nifty conversion of a 6v flashlight. 

 

to produce lotsof bees for the followign year, it is important that the majority of parasitic wasps are removed and destroyed.  Identification of parasitized cocoons can be done by ‘candling’. 

Randy from Olympia has devised a way of optimizing the light from a 6 volt battery  for the candling process.    I have not done it myself, but having a steady light for candling would optimize the candling process.  Candling can identify cocoons filled with parasitic wasps.  Once a cocoon with the parasitic wasps inside has been identified these are destoyed.  Freezing is a simple way of destroying these tiny wasps when they are inside cocoons.   If the wasp numbers  are not kept under control- they can parasitize   a lot of healthy cocoons.  For full details of Randy’s conversion click on the file below.  also click on candling in the search window of this blog.

“…I’ve had good luck with it since I made the conversion, getting steady light while my battery waits patiently for a chance to go camping again.  The info is in the attached Word document.  … if you think it’s of more general interest, you are welcome to put it out there on your website.  Let me know if you have any questions, Randy”.
Optimize Your Cocoon