Fall Questions, Answers and Observations
Subject: Something is eating my bees!
From: R. W. Burnaby, BC
Something is getting into my nest. I noticed that all the mud plugs have been removed. I am not sure if there is anything left. I do have chicken wire (1-inch holes) over the nest (about 4 inches away from the front of the nest). But this does not seem to keep the predators away. Is there anything I should be doing extra to protect my bees? My neighbours across the road have a great apple crop, the next door neighbours are telling me that they are enjoying their pears….I dont want to lose them.
It sounds like chickadees or woodpeckers have been at your mason bee nest. If possible place the nest inside in an open carport or shed, or turn the nest around so the nest holes are facing the back of a shelf. Or place 1/2-inch chicken wire over the nest. Bulge the chicken wire around the nest. Another way of keeping the birds off was developed by Joe Sadowski. Cut a piece of 1/2-inch chicken wire or similar wire netting and hang it from a nail set into the peak of the roof. This swinging guard is surely going to keep the bees safe.
Subject: Setting out nests
From: H.P., Richmond, BC
As far as setting out a nest, is there any way I could know, now, whether there are any bees to catch in my area (south Richmond, right beside the farmlands)? I don’t recall seeing any bees, other than a few big honey bees, this past summer. What I don’t want is to miss the opportunity for bees to move into my yard! With our house, we inherited a long neglected apple tree that I am determined to bring back to health. (The apple detectives at the fest figured my tree is a Cox’s Orange Pippin). Hence, a bee condo to ultimately help with pollination.
When would I put out my nest with its “Rooms for Rent” sign? February? March? And if only a few showed up, would I still have time to buy some bees from you and everything would turn out?
If you set out a nest, you may or may not have bees around for the following year. One way out this dilemma, is to buy some mason bees to get started. If you do have mason bees in your area, you would have a lot more bees for next year. The timing is not quite right for seeing if you have bees and buying some later.
Subject: Bees from the wild?
From: H.P., Richmond
Is it necessary to purchase Osmia mason bees or can one “just build it and they will come?”
The answer to your question is no, you do not have to buy mason bees. However if there are no mason bees in your neighborhood, you may want to buy mason bees to get the process started. Some people set out nests to see if they can catch some bees themselves. I recommend this technique. If you have no success in attracting bees, you can always buy them.
Subject: How do I keep my mason bees healthy?
From: A.L. from Coquitlam
I have heard that if I want to make sure that my bees are healthy and continue pollinating my fruit trees that the bees need cleaning in the fall. Is this true and how do I do this?
Yes, cleaning your mason bees in the fall helps them to continue living in your area. Mason bees have their pests and parasites and amongst them is a mite that feeds on the pollen meant for the growing mason bee larva. If nothing is done, these mites build up over a period of several years, with the result that very few bees are produced for pollinating your fruit trees.
After August, the bee has formed into an adult, although she is still in a tightly fitting cocoon. Cocoons can be rinsed with a weak bleach solution and cleaned free of most mites. A rinse in clean water is important after the bleach rinse.
My nests that uses trays with slots are the best for easily removing cocoons from the nest, cleaning the nest and getting the nest and cocoons ready for next year. I have cocoon cleaning workshops in the fall.
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