In the early 1990’s at the beginning of my research on mason bees, I read numerous papers on mason bees. Many of them were authored by Phil Torchio and published in the1970’s. What I could not work out immediately, at the time, was why after all this research, were mason bees not available by the billions for pollination crops and home gardens. There must be something I am missing. In about 4 years I had over 20,000 cocoons and set them out in blueberry fields.
|Since there are is no protection from the weather in blueberry fields, these open sided boxes were set out with about 20,000 mason bees. Each structure contains about 600 nesting tunnels in highrises or stacks of 72 nesting holes. The nests are oriented in slightly different directions to assist the returning bees finding their homes. The coloured plastic was placed in the ground and used as protection against the rain and also used as orientation cues. The wooden structures were set up on totes to get above the splash zone.
|Bees will forage and pollinate any flower that has food for them. Plants that produce lots of nectar and pollen are preferred over others. This is a cabbage flower.
If my increase in mason bees over four years is a normal increase in numbers, I should have bees by the billions. I don’t.
We know that if parasitism and predation gets away from you, numbers of cocoons produced can drop dramatically.
But there are other factors.
Food availability is a non- brainer. But it is difficult to assess if the quantity and quality is out there for our mason bees. Seeing flowers is one thing, but knowing the quality of the pollen is another. We usually assume lots of flowers means lots of food.
All these factors are important, but nothing works if the weather does not cooperate.
So making a structure that keeps the bees warm and out of the rain and wind, makes a lot of sense. It is not only important to keep the nest warm for the adults, but for the developing young as well.
The open wooden structures (as in picture above) were unwieldy and protection from the weather was minimal altough sufficient if the weather was sunny!
The Gazebo for mason bees was born. More next time.