Spring Questions, Answers and Observations
Subject: How do I know if my bees have emerged?
From: Jim S
I bought one of your mason bee nests and a package of the washed mason bee cocoons. I set the nest and the cocoons out 2 weeks ago. How do I know when the bees have emerged?
There are two easy methods for determining whether your mason bees have emerged from their cocoons. Mason bees chew a hole through the cocoon to exit, leaving bits and pieces of the cocoons shell. Some are more intact than others. After hanging about for a few minutes the bee defecates a very light brown coloured faeces. Seeing either of these indicators tells you that some bees have emerged. The males emerge first (small tuft of white hairs on the front of the face) and females follow. The speed of emergence depends on the temperature. Warmer temperatures speed up emergence.
Subject: Site for my mason bee condo
Hello, I have a bee house that I put up last year about the middle of March. It is facing east and in the sun but I think it needs to have more protection from the wind. (No bees moved into it last year.) The only other option I have to place it facing east would be in my garden next to the fence. What I would like to know is if the height of about 4 feet would be enough and if the bees will tolerate the close vincinity to me when I am gardening. Thank-you for providing this email access, Lynn.
Mason bees will go about their business even if you are standing right in front of the nest. An east or south orientation works well. Keep in mind that mason bees need the sun, and more sun. Mason Bees need the sun to warm up and get going. Depending on where you live moving the nest now could be too late. If one or two bees are using the nest, then these bees will be lost. You could add a nest in a new and warmer spot. East facing with some wind might be better than a fence post, since there is probably more air movement around a fence post, unless it is in the sun and completely out of the wind. Keep in mind that these bees need sun, more sun and more sun. Height of the nest is not critical. Close to the ground is not recommended because of rain splash. Set a nest so you can look and watch the bees at work. Check out my web site BeeDiverse.com for more details. My book “Pollination with Mason Bees” is an easy-to-read guide on how to look after these bees with success. If I can be of further assistance, please let me know.
Subject: Cleaning nests?
From: Gale and Linda
How do I clean out the nest with a drill bit without killing the bees? I was reading an article the other day about Mason Bees and have a question maybe you can help me with. The article said that every two years you should clean out the holes in the old blocks by running a drill bit in the holes to clean out and to prevent disease.
The question is, when do you do this so as to not kill the bees that are in the blocks? Is this a good idea or do the Mason bees take care of the cleaning? I assume that they come back and use the holes that they came out of? Any help would be appreciated.
You are right, it is impossible to clean out nesting holes without killing the ‘just about to hatch bees’ or the ‘newly laid eggs and developing young’. The reason for cleaning the nest and the cocoons is to keep the pollen-feeding mite numbers down and the bee numbers up. The more mites, the fewer bees. In 3 years the bee population can dwindle down to only a few mason bee especially if you live on the coast in relatively humid regions. If you want lots of bees for pollination, cleaning out the nest is the way to go. If you are curious, and want more information on how to keep mason bees with continued success, read my book “Pollination with Mason Bees”. Let me know which city you live near, and I can let you know the closest store to you that carries my book and the BeeDiverse® Products line of mason bee houses or you can order by mail order. For more information and photos of the book and the products check out beediverse.com. If I can be of further assistance, please let me know.
Subject: Can I make my own nests?
From: M.H., Tennessee
I live on a small farm in Tennessee. I love helping nature out a little, because she does so much for us. I wondered if I could use brown Kraft paper. I could roll up a small strip, stick it in the hole then spread it out with a dowel. This way it would not have to be glued.
Yes, rolled paper will work and a 5/16th hole is the best.
Subject: Plastic straws
Can I use plastic straws that are 5/16″?
Plastic straws are very slippery and bees have a great deal of difficulty in using them. They will use them if there is absolutely nothing else for them to nest in. Normally you get 6 cocoons for every 6″ tunnel. A plastic straw will yield you 1-2 per straw.
Subject: Food Plants for Mason Bees
I wonder if you have a list of flowers (annuals) that I could plant now that I
am planning my summer garden? Flowers that attract and are food for the precious little Masons! I don’t think you have that information listed on your website (which is looking very attractive, may I say?).
A friend of mine gave me this list of bee-attractive plants. Please note the spelling may not be correct. If you find other bee attractive plants we can add to the list…let me know. Annual; mignonette (reseda), alyssum (any colour), Perennials penstemon, any kind horned rampion, stachys lanata, rosea rugosa, roses damask, roses hybrid, musk roses, English austin roses, monarda, lemon balm, crocus grape, hyacinths, campasula, echinacea, heuchera, delphinium, lavendar – hidcote, origanum herren hausen.
Subject: Bees For Sale
From: N.E., Vancouver
I went to one of your mason bee work shops in Sapperton two weeks ago and bought a kit and some bees from you. I would like to get one more container of bees. Do you sell them in any shops in the Coquitlam area, or do I need to mail order them from you? Also do you sell the straws with the bees in them? My 7 year-old son is really interested in what I am doing and I thought it would be neat for him to open a couple to see for himself.
Yes we have Beediverse products at garden stores and wild bird stores. Let us know if you need more information about store locations. You can also mailorder them directly from us. Please check our catalogue on this web site.
Subject: Bumble Bees
From: S.S., Bellingham, Washington
I’ve been watching bees in my garden and saw a very different one, sort of small bumble bee size, black with yellow fuzzy and with the back half of the aft segment being reddish or brownish. I haven’t seen one like that before. Is this a common thing I’ve never noticed? (Probably) I’ve seen several other, smaller bees that I haven’t had a good look at. I’m looking for mason bees of course. All the ones I’ve seen have been too yellow, or so it seems to me. My (neighbor’s)
Japanese. plum is in full glory and that’s where I saw the red abdomen bee, with my binoculars. The other bees were around pink heather and Pieris japonicum white flowers. Funny how all it takes is a little bit of change in awareness to see so much more.
The bumble bee with the red abdomen is Bombus melanopygus. It is fairly common here in BC and is one of the first ones out and about in the spring.
Subject: Free Bees
From: R O Vancouver
A friend told me she had seen an article in the Abbotsford newspaper about Orchard Mason bees. I have a large back yard with lots of flowers and an old Gravenstine apple tree that need pollination. Can you help me? Thanks for your help.
Yes mason bees are available in garden stores in the Lower Mainland of Vancouver and in other localities. Bees and nests for these bees are available at most garden stores. Give me a call and I will let you know other stores with bees for sale. Have a great spring.
Subject: Getting My Bees Started
From: BH, Vancouver
I just today bought a little container of bees in cocoons which I on the advice of the nursery have put in my fridge for now. What am I supposed to do with the cocoons. Put one in each hole in the house? Leave them in the cardboard box and set them outside close to the house or straws? Help!!
Bought nests have the advantage of being ready to hang up in your garden. But of course rolling your own straws is a great alternative. When you have your bee house fixed into place on a warm south or east facing wall, get your box of bees ready in the following way. Create exit hole for emerging bees, by removing tab from box. Place box adjacent to your bee house. BeeDiverse® Products bee houses have an attic on top of the nesting trays for easy release of these bees.
Subject: Mud for Your Mason Bees
From: H.H., West Vancouver
Would the bees find the steeper and drier slopes of West Vancouver a good environment for breeding? In other words would they find enough mud to do their work? We do have mud daubing wasps in this area. I look forward to your reply as I want to start some nests here as well as introducing my grandchildren in White Rock to this interesting bee.
Steeper and drier slopes are great for ground nesting bees, but depending on the severity of the conditions are likely unsuitable for mason bees. I recomend digging a one foot square hole in the vicinity of your nest, this removes the top layer of organic soil and exposes the mineral rich layer masons need for building their nest.
Subject: Mason Bees for Your Apartment
From: F.M., Surrey
I’m e-mailing you on behalf of my father. My father lives in a condo with a 12′ x 30′ outside deck. He has 3 dwarf apple trees on this deck. Last year he pollinated the trees himself and harvested fruit from two-thirds of the trees. He also has the occasional summer BBQ on this deck. How does he go about getting these Mason Bees and is there potential conflict(stinging, etc.) with the bees being in close proximity to the BBQ area?
Your father is a great candidate for setting up his own mason bee nest. Condo owners on the fourth floor are having great success. Mason bees are a friendly pollinator and your barbeque guests can stand right in front of the nest without these little pollinators bothering anyone. The mason bees are so preoccupied with their building work they will fly around you to get at their nest. Mason bees usually emerge in March and are around until about late May. If your father wants a ready-to-hang nest I have either a plain or handpainted design, and trays or straws if he’s a do-it-yourselfer. You can place orders through email (email@example.com) or phone my office at 1-800-794-2144. Thankyou for your questions and let me know how the dwarf apple tree crop does next year.
Subject: What to do with bee cocoons
From: B.H. Vancouver
Getting My Bees Started. I just today bought a little container of bees in cocoons that I (on the advice of the nursery) have put in my fridge for now. I haven’t bought a bee house yet…. What am I supposed to do with the cocoons. Put one in each hole in the house?
When you have your bee house fixed into place on a warm south or east-facing wall, get your container of bees ready in the following way. Create an exit hole by opening one end of the box. Place the box inside your bee home and adjacent to nesting tunnels. BeeDiverse® bee houses have an attic on top of the nesting trays for easy release of these bees.
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