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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.

Thanks Frank for the great pictures.  This will help a lot of folks when they open up their nesting trays.

Holes in mason bee cocoons that parasitic wasps have used to exit cocoons.

Fruit fly pupae -a sticky mess. 

 

 

If the nesting tunnel is sticky , then this photo is of fruit fly larvae that have just arrived on the west coast ( of NA) over the past 2 years.

Adult parasitic wasps inside a mason bee cocoon
Young parasitic wasp pupae inside a mason bee cocoon
“Hi Margriet .. I’m a little late in sending you my usual “annual report” on the cocoon harvesting by my group this year, but it’s in progress.  I will have some interesting images and questions.  But in the meantime, I want you to see this example of some very aggressive nesting that turned up during the processing.

Here’s the story, and it’s a modified version of what I sent out to the 20 members of my sharegroup.

One of my guys took 35 of his cocoons to Duncan for his brother-in-law to set out. Which he did.  He  had a stack of five trays with eight galleries per tray.  That’s 40 galleries.  The yield from these trays was 330 cocoons!!  That gives a multiplier very close to 10 .. which is possible, ’cause I had results like this back in the late 90′s.  But in this case I’m told that there were already lots of bees flying around his brother-in-law’s garden, so he undoubtedly captured many members of the natural colony .. just like I’m doing at Ten Mile Point.

 What’s particularly interesting about this case is how aggressively the bees nested.  Image A is a side view of the five trays.  Note that the lowermost two trays don’t reach all the way to the back of the stack, leaving a gap behind them.  Note that there is also a gap between the lowermost tray and the one above it because the trays don’t stack properly.
 

Image B shows what the bees did in the gap behind the lowermost two trays. They built a sheet of chambers on the wall behind the two trays.

Image B

 

 More surprising, Image C shows the top of the lowermost tray.  Not only are many of the galleries filled, but there is a sheet of chambers on top of the tray, filling the gap that existed between it and the tray above.

Image C

 

 SO, the moral of the story seems to be … when the bees are determined to nest and conditions are right, nothing much can stop them.  And I suppose the corollary is that when the bees are NOT interested in nesting, it’s difficult to persuade them to do so.

I now have three examples of nesting boxes interacting with natural colonies.  This one, where the bees from the set-out cocoons  plus bees from the natural colony were happy to populate the nesting box together. 

The opposite situation is the nesting box and cocoons that have been set out for three years at one of our Victoria sites where there is also a natural colony, and every year so far the bees have emerged and joined the natural colony, with absolutely no interest in the nesting box. 

And the third example is a site I have in Victoria (the Ten Mile Point site referred to above)with a very large natural colony in a large garden, and where I set out nesting boxes each year and harvest lots of cocoons.

I’ll have a report on our cocoon harvesting to you soon, and by the way, please feel free to use any of these images and the ones coming with the report - with an acknowledgement of course.

Best wishes for all good things in 2014.

Frank”

Thanks Frank  awesome pictures and a great story.  Dr Margriet Dogterom

 

 

 

Here is a bee tree that is different!  Surrey municipality (BC) is promoting mason bees and how important bees are in pollinating and producing seeds and fruits.  This tree is certainly colourful.  The different coloured branches will help bees orient to their nests.  Each branch has a multitude of nesting tunnels.  This spring mason bees will be placed in close proximity to the nesting holes and the attending public will be planting bee attractive plants in late April/early May.

Bee tree in the summer when mason bee eggs are developing into adult mason bees

Bee tree waiting for mason bees to wake up.

 

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

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