• Beediverse Viewing home- Whow!!! Hylaeus Spinning Its Cocoon

    End plug visible

    Two out of 3 bees are spinning their cocoons with fecal pellets visible in center cell.

  • Beediverse Viewing home-Hylaeus bee – a first!-a summer bee without hairs!

    I always thought (wrong) that all bees have hairs.  Well it seems that the groups and families I studied had hairs, but here is a little bee that flies around in the summer that has no hairs.  You may wonder how it collects pollen.

     

    Larvae in 2 cells.

    Here is what Dr. Jim Cane had to say after he saw these amazing pictures-

    Margriet- I think that may be a little Hylaeus bee.  That would explain what looks to be a few yellow marks, and the “webbing’ would then be the polyester lining that they synthesize from Dufrou’s secretion.  Common name of “masked bees”, which should be evident to Jack from two yellow triangles to the interior of the eyes, and a hairless appearance (carry pollen in the crop).  Would be VERY cool to watch in an observation nest!  I am envious!  They are around here, to be sure, but I have so far failed at all attempts to trap nest them (most recently used bundles of coarsely-corrugated cardboard, which decades ago, Phil Torchio used successfully).

    Hello Jim,  Thank you for the most interesting information.  I agree that the Beediverse viewing home is a great tool and will give people an improved and greater experience with bees.  Fancy being able to see a bee egg and watch it develop from a larvae and into an adult bee.   I read through the Torchio article you emailed to me.  The detail that Phil Torchio collected on this bee is astounding.  I must write another blog about this most interesting and primitive bee!

  • Success-A tiny summer bee nests in our viewing home!

    Tiny summer bee that spins its cell plugs

    Three translucent plugs between cells..

    A leafcutter bee in action.  Note the striped abdomen which is typical of the leafcutter bee family.

    Summer bee  (below) and leafcutter bee cells (above in the slightly larger nesting tunnel).

    Over view. Leafcutter bee nests in the slightly larger nesting holes, whereas this summer bee chooses the smaller nesting tunnels (below).

    Jack set out this viewing home in Alberta and this is what he wrote:

    “We have something else (besides the leafcutter bee) using the smallest groves in our Viewing Home.  It has  packed in pollen and then seems to spin a wax or silk dome around the pollen, then starts a new one using same procedure. It looks like a small slender form of bee, but resembles an ant.  Do you know what this might be?

    I have been watching every day to see how it spins its nest pouch.  It  uses its 2 hind legs and tongue to create a barrier or nest pouch between the pollen pockets.”

    Thanks Jack.  A great contribution.  I have never seen this before, where a bees spins material to form a nest plug.    I think this viewing home will allow gardeners see more and more bees that have not even been identified yet.  We are chasing down the identity as we speak.  More about viewing home

  • New inside our viewing home! A leafcutter bee.

    Leafcutter bees like our viewing home too!

    My fascination with bees continues year after year.  There is always something different going on inside the nesting tunnels.  Every nesting tunnel tells its story and it is always a bit different to what is inside another nesting tunnel.  Note our viewing home has five larger nesting tunnels designed  for the larger mason bees.  Then below, there  are two nesting tunnels a bit smaller and the lowest nesting tunnels are even smaller.    The variation in tunnel size is to accommodate the different sizes of bees happily living in our gardens.  The leafcutter bee that decided to make its home inside the medium size tunnels in our viewing home  found a good fit to its nesting requirements.   I wonder if the tiny summer bees will find it too?  Looking at the photos of the filled tunnel,  you can see the cells separated by a line of leaf packed as a plug rather then a leaf surrounding the developing cell.  The lower tunnel was filled first.  The upper tunnel is filled with one or two cells and was then plugged.  These tunnels will be harvested in October and stored over the winter in readiness for next spring.

    More about our Viewing Home

  • BC public holiday- what is happening out there?

    The weather for BC at this time of year is quite hot.  30C again today.  We are not used to this you see.  Usually it is around 24C, with cool nights, a bit of rain and then again sunny weather around 25C.  I can deal with that!  So on this public holiday I was in my cool basement office blogging and messaging and emailing to those not at the beach.  In the afternoon I though, I had better get away from that computer since I was getting a bit chilled at 22C.  I soon raced back inside.  Where did my camera vanish to?  I grabbed it and within minutes, I had set my little camera (Fujifilm EXR) to photograph some very busy bees. This tiny bee not bigger than 1/2 inch or 1 cm were busy feeding on the flowers of my anise plant.  I did not think any bee would be around- it is so dry out there right now.  Fennel, a licorice tasting herb, is part of the Umbellifera family like dill, carrots and parsnip that have flower clusters in the shape of an umbrella.  This makes it very easy for bees to forage.  All that the bees and other insects have to do is to wander around and collect nectar and pollen.  For this bee, collecting nectar seemed to be a priority. I can’t see any pollen on its body.  Perhaps this flower does not have copious amounts of pollen like some other flowers ( e.g. dandelion).  I had to go outside again and check out this flower closeup.  I wanted to see which part was the female stigma and which were the anthers with the pollen.  With my handy 3x head-held magnifier, I was surprised to see that the tiny tall pompoms that stick out above the flower are the anthers.  The larger round structures are the stigma where the seeds will develop.  I guess these anthers on their stalks are making sure that some pollen is picked up by the bee and while cruising past, she would drop some pollen grains onto a stigma or two.  This is the second year I have had this plant.  Initially I placed it in the soil, but it was soon overgrown.  In a pot it went.  I placed it on a bench for no apparent reason and at eye level.  I could not miss this plant feeding some bees that I did not know were about.  From the stripes, it looks like a bee from the Megachilidae family.  I checked U-tube and not only did I learn  how to grow fennel but learned how to  harvest fennel seed.  Next year I will have a row of fennel plants ready for these bees.

    If there is food, the bees will come.

    How to grow fennel

    How to harvest fennel seeds  

     

  • What is going on in our garden during August?

    In late July and August, the garden beckons us like no other time.  Harvesting and cleaning and watering are just some of the daily tasks that ensure the garden is in good condition not only for this season, but next year.  These tasks all come into focus when I receive my copy of Pome News a quarterly newsletter from the Oregon Orchard Society.  Reminders of what to do are invaluable since quite a few of these tasks are forgotten or not completed.

    The forgotten Saskatoon.

    What I was most surprised about was the adding of fertilizer, like kelp, alfalfa meal or canola meal to ground covers.  I have always thought of adding the fertilizer in the spring, but now I realize that maintaining  plants and soil is a year-round task.  Other general tasks include pruning flowering shrubs like azaleas and rhododendrons if needed.  In the front of the house this one bramble has seemingly taken over part of the yard.  I clipped it back so we could access the front yard.  This summer, temperatures have been hot and the wild rose has been going berserk.  One plant near the front steps was totally unruly and was thinking of taking over the front door.  This rose does very well over an arbor, but space is limited now with other plants taking over the space.  As I am cruising the front yard, I looked for a forgotten Saskatoon berry bush.  I find it totally overgrown by vigorous Red Osier dogwood plant.  No wonder I could not see it.  The poor Saskatoon bush , it tried to produce a multitude of very thin branches, but leaves need the sun.  The birds love this fruit, as I do, so I hope it will again blossom for us next spring.

    Staking out tomato branches

    Part of all this is to cruise around your garden to see what needs doing.  For example, staking tomatoes is not something you do once a week or so, but gets done when it needs to be done.  I saw a bumble bee flitting among the cherry tomato flowers today.  Hoping for a good crop this year.  It was Bombus mixtus– a mostly yellow bee with a very small area of orange on its ‘tail’.

    Bee homes neatly netted for the summer months

    On my travels through the garden, I pass by a space underneath my back verandah.  This area is not in direct sun and is protected from the rain.  Temperatures are about the same as shady areas in the garden.  The reason I am going on about this space is that every year I use this space to  store my mason bee homes with nests.  This space is out of the way, and is not used for anything else.  So the bees inside their cocoons remain save and sound until the fall.

    It is important to keep the nests in a not too hot and not too cold area.  Too hot, and the bees will be warm and use up all their winter and next spring’s fat reserve.  The result in this case is that the bees do not have the energy to eat their way out of the cocoons.    Too cold, and bees do not develop into their adult form inside a cocoon.

    The timing for moving nests into a cooler place, under cover and inside wasp proof net bags is by late June, when bee flight has ceased.   I take down all the bee homes and set them, 2 or 3 of them, inside a wasp-proof net bag.  I find that by doing this, the level of parasitism is quite low.    I remove the bee homes out of the net bags in October when I harvest and clean the nesting trays and the cocoons in readiness for next spring.

    Another way of storing mason bee homes with filled nests is inside a shed  that has a window.  The window is an important part of how it works. and in this case, it is not necessary to  place filled nests  into a wasp proof bag.   The window works like this.  When the little parasitic wasps mature, they emerge from infested cocoons and go to the window.  They die at the window trying to get out and do not seem to attack and parasitize more cocoons.

    Either system of management takes care of these pesky little wasps that can devastate your bees.  One of the reasons why these pesky little wasps can be so devastating is that once spring comes around and warm temperatures arrive in spring, they can reproduce every 3 weeks or so until late September.  If one wasp lays 10 eggs, and these lay 10 eggs…… no wonder they can devastate your cocoon crop!

    Destruction by mice

    Mice like eating bee larvae!!

    Other pesky pests are mice.  Mice do not damage nesting trays whether made of wood or corn material.  But nesting tubes made of cardboard are fair game from mice and other rodents.  Mice listen to the sound of the developing bee larva feeding on their pollen and nectar lump.  When they locate a larva, the mouse chews only to get access to the cocoons.  It makes quite a pattern, but how it devastates your cocoons.  If you are using cardboard tubes, place nesting cardboard tubes in a secure metal box so mice cannot get at your cocoons before harvest time.  Keep your cocoons save and your pollination will be even better next spring.  If the number of bee cocoons are not quite enough for next years spring pollination, let us know.

     

     

     

  • July 4th – what is happening inside our viewing home?

    • On July 4th all bee eggs developed through the stages of being a feeding larva. Now they are beginning to spin their cocoons depositing fecal pellets at the same time. It is truly amazing how clear everything is and life goes on.
  • Viewing home- Inside the nest II

    • Viewing home with filled nesting tunnels.
    This product-Our new viewing home is an amazing unit.  The bees love it, we love it and it is a Canadian made bee home.  It is very easy to see what is happening inside the nest during the spring, early and late summer.  Viewing is clear through the plexiglass.   We have taken some pictures to show you what bees are up to inside nesting tunnels during the spring and summer.  Pre-order one for the spring  and watch what your bees are doing inside the nest.

    It is late June and adult mason bees have completed their work.  They have tirelessly pollinated, collecting pollen and nectar and laying eggs.  Now that the adult bees are spent and are no longer around, it is time for the little ones to do their thing!

    Eggs are laid on a pollen lump enclosed in a cell of mud.  The mud is there to protect them from marauders such as little parasitic wasps and ants for example.  The amount of pollen and nectar depends on whether it is female or male egg.  Females receive a large pollen lump.  Males are provided with considerable smaller pollen lump.   Eggs soon appear as little grubs.  All they do is eat and eat and eat.  When all the pollen is devoured, the resultant bee grub is large and round.   When fecal pellets are produced, it is close to the final larval stage.  Fecal pellets are brown and slightly curved.  At this last stage of this grub (called a pre-pupa) it starts spinning a cocoon.  The silken threads produced by the salivary glands, spin a cocoon which in its final stages is brown and ovoid in shape.    At the front end of the cocoon is a nipple which usually faces the nest entrance.  During the summer there is a dormant stage which can last up to 2 months.  By the end of the summer it becomes a pupa.  This pupa starts of as white, but over the next few days, its eyes darken and it eventually turns into an adult mason bee.  At this stage, bees go through a winter dormancy, at which stage, we can clean cocoons free of mites and other debris.

    Watch the slide show and learn the different stages of a young mason bee from egg to a large spinning larvae.  The next stage is the pupae and adult.

  • When do Leafcutter bees emerge?

    Leafcutter bees are great summer pollinators.    It is easy to start with these bees.  All that is required are bee cocoons, a suitable nest and some hot summer weather.

    Many of our customers have started their new hobby with these great little summer pollinators.  But it was not clear how long these bees needed to develop into adults and emerge in the summer.  We heard of people throwing them out, cutting them open and finding  a fleshy grub that does not look at all like a bee!

    Here are the facts.  Under laboratory conditions and inside an incubator at 30C, bee pupae need 20-31 days to emerge as adults!

    This is a long time!  This means that under normal conditions (and about half the time it is night and temperatures are cooler)  the emergence time is much longer than 21-30 days.  Under any natural conditions, emergence is more like 30-45d+.  They say ‘Patience is a virtue’!

     

    Twenty two species occur in Western Canada.  Megachile rotundata is a species of leafcutter bee that originates from Eurasia.  It is used in the commercial seed production of alfalfa.  The female Megachile rotundate has silvery gray hairs on the underside of its abdomen.  Other female leafcutter bee species usually have golden, tan, or black hairs on the underside of their abdomen.

    Megachikle rotundata overwinters in the pre-pupa stage. during last spring and early summer, temperatures are sufficiently warm for pre-pupae to develop into adults.  Then adults emerge to pollinate our summer blooms.

    Nesting material for leafcutter bees were first made out of grooved wooden pine boards that were stacked to make a series of nests.  Polystyrene grooved boards and nesting holes molded into solid polystyrene blocks are both used today.

    In part, excerpted from our book ‘Pollination with Mason bees” page 100 by Dr. Margriet Dogterom.  Get yourself a copy as 25,000 others have done.  It is the standard management guide for mason bees and includes details about other bee species.

     

     

  • Summer is here-what to do to keep your mason bees safe.

    Bee management is all about keeping your bees safe and healthy.  At this time of year, late June, most mason bees have stopped flying and nesting trays need to be stored in a wasp-proof bag or in an outbuilding.

    In late June, most mason bees are at their end.  They have either died in the field or have died inside one of the nesting tunnels.

    In the spring, bees emerged, collected pollen and nectar for their offspring, collected mud to prepare their nests and laid eggs.  These eggs ate the provisions of pollen and nectar left behind by their female mason bee.  

    Pollen provisions for young bee placed between mud plugs.

      Then, after they had eaten all their provisions, each bee grub or larvae turned into a bee pupae.  This is a resting phase so that their bodies are ready for the next step. The next step is where each bee pupae turns into an adult bee inside a cocoon.  All these steps are completed inside the nesting tunnels but only if temperatures are relatively warm- about 20-30C/ 70-90F.

    It is summer time when mud plugs are visible.

    When you notice that  mason bees have stopped flying- around mid June, it is time to store them while they develop into adults during warm temperatures of the summer months.   Of course, you may think all bees have done their job, but you might be surprised that  there are still some mason bees about that are still producing offspring.  If this is the case, come back and check in another week or so.

    Don’t store nests until all mason bees have stopped flying.

    As mentioned above nesting trays need to be stored at temperatures above 20C so that developing bees can continue to develop into the final adult bee.  There are two ways that I have successfully stored nesting trays until harvest time in the fall:

    1) The best location to store nesting trays with developing bees is in an outbuilding with a window.  Again temperatures should be between 20-30C.  Of course more than 30C would be a bit high. The advantage of the window is that when the tiny parasitic wasps emerge from the parasitized cocoons they go to the light at the window and no longer parasitize additional cocoons.

    2)

    2) If there are no out buildings available, I usually take nests down and place them under a verandah where it is nice and dry, but still warm.  Under these storage conditions, you need net bags for your nesting trays  to prevent wasp parasitism and additional re-infestations by the parasitic wasps.

     Procedure for placing nesting trays into storage: -Remove nesting trays from housing. -Do not drop nesting trays.

    -Do not turn nesting trays upside down.

    -Keep nesting trays as a unit. 

    -Do not open nesting trays  by removing tape.

    -Gently  take nesting trays to the storage site until harvest in October.

    -If storage site is in an open area and not inside a building place nesting trays into a Wasp proof bag.  Keep your bees safe with a Wasp-proof bag.  A bonus- it is on special.