mason bee houses

Discussion in 'HortForum' started by boyer37, Feb 11, 2005.

  1. boyer37

    boyer37 Member

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    Hello:
    I've been trying to establish some mason bees in my garden (W Vancouver) by building some "houses" for them. Last season I got the houses built a little too late, perhaps, to get some larvae to overwinter. But another problem I may have had was that I built the houses out of cedar. Somewhere I've heard that mason bees will not use cedar. The two questions I have then are: 1) By when should the houses be available in the garden, and 2) do they have to be built of wood other than cedar?

    Thanks,
    Richard
     
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2005
  2. Newt

    Newt Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    Hi Boyer,

    You should find this helpful. Much of this you probably already know.
    http://www.lifecyclesproject.ca/learningresources/bee_average/about.htm
    http://www.virtualorchard.net/glfgn/february1998/masonbee.html
    http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/ent/notes/Other/orn_t109/note109.html



    This site states:
    http://www.knoxcellars.com/
    "Early in the Spring, when the weather warms and the day time temperatures begin to reach 50 degrees with some regularity, the hibernating bees emerge from their nesting holes, males and females from each hole. They promptly mate and the female immediately begins her nest building. She gathers pollen and nectar from the spring blossoms and brings it to the nesting hole. When the proper amount of food is gathered and placed in the back of the hole, the female backs in and deposits one egg into the food provision. Then the chamber is completed with a plug of mud masonry collected piece by piece by the hard working female.

    The process is repeated again and again until the entire hole is filled with nesting chambers. Finally an extra thick masonry plug is constructed at the hole opening and the bee flies off looking for another hole. This frantic gathering, egg laying and masonry work goes on throughout the spring until the adults all die, presumably from sheer exhaustion.

    Inside the egg chamber, life goes on. The egg hatches into a larva, the larva eats the food. spins a cocoon and within that cocoon transforms through the wonders of metamorphosis into a pupa, and finally by the end of summer, into a complete adult. There, within the sealed chamber, the bee will hibernate through the long winter to awake again the next spring to renew the cycle."
    So I'm wondering why you would bring in the nest boxes, but I did notice that many of the sites I visited did talk about bringing them in for the winter. I like the idea of having ones to rotate. When the bees emerge, then you put out the saved ones, clean the ones they used over the winter and save them for next year.

    I have been reading that fir and pine seem to be recommended. When visiting sites with pre-made nesting boxes for sale, they either don't say what they are made of, or they do say either fir or pine. I haven't found anything about cedar as of yet. From this site:
    http://snohomish.wsu.edu/mg/ombblock/ombblock.htm

    "Materials note – standard softwood (fir, hemlock) framing lumber works well. Most lumber sold today has fairly large growth rings, and accepts screws without splitting. If you salvage some older, dry material with tight growth rings, you may have to drill lead holes for the screws to prevent the small blocks from splitting."

    You might want to try a search at www.google.com with terms like:
    mason bee + cedar

    Newt
     
  3. Thean

    Thean Active Member 10 Years

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    Howdy Boyer,
    I make mine out of spruce and pine. They are easier to drill. I was told the size of the hole is more important than the type of material used. I use a 5/16' drill.
    Peace
    Pheh
     
  4. Newt

    Newt Well-Known Member 10 Years

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  5. Annell

    Annell Active Member

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    West Coast Seeds make their Mason bee houses out of Cedar. I at a talk about Bees with the Seed Buyer for West coast seeds yesterday at Seedy Saturday, he's an avid beekeeper, and he knows the scoop on mason bees and if cedar wasn't good/liked by them i'm guessing he would do something about it to change the wood that WCseeds used. But that's just an assumtion on my part.

    http://www.westcoastseeds.net/product/catid/6/item/96/

    a.
     
  6. alderbee

    alderbee Member

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    Hello I'm new here

    I'm not a mason bee expert .
    However I have made a few observations for the last 20 years on mason bees in my shed .

    I'll make a few points and suggestions

    Well I have to ask the question which is How are these holes formed in the lumber .
    The mason bee doesn't drill holes in wood .
    It finds existing holes in the wood


    They tend to lay their pupa and it matures in holes in wood fibre and it flys out as a finished product in the following spring or conveniance.
    These pieces of lumber are processed pieces of unsized lumber cheap to buy odd sizes but good enough for a shed or whatever culls from a wood mill with holes bored in the lumber may be unsuitable for sale in a store. Culls from a mill
    That is why bees live in my shed.
    It is made of this wood.

    I'm sure that most of the logs sat in the ocean and holes were bored in the wood by a
    organisim called the toredo or some other kinds of mullosks or wood worms while submerged and the others that attack a tree on land while growing.

    So when a log is processed at a mill there are all kinds of foul smelling bugs and larva that have been boring holes into any log, can be any species of wood that they burrow into .
    It stinks and makes a big mess when a saw blade cuts into the log .sprays everywhere stinks.
    protein .


    To me this seems like a good opportunity for a mason bee to put larva into a pre bored hole which may contain edible and dead or live nuturing for the bee larva in a fresh milled log .

    And I would suggest that as long as the lumber has not been kiln dried or dipped in a preservative solution the piece of lumber would provide a suitable location for the nest and may contain bee larva .

    The size of the holes I would say from 5/16" ths to 3/8" diameter are ok
    I checked and saw that they like the deeper holes . deeper than 1" .

    The plugged holes look like a light gray concrete with dark specks .
    The shallower holes seem to be vacant

    Keep dry under a roof all of the time .

    The shed is located close to a shaded forest and is in a field .
    flowers are abundant in the area as well.


    Cheers

    Andy
     
  7. vitog

    vitog Rising Contributor 10 Years

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    Richard, there is plenty of information about Mason Bees on the Web, but here are some of my observations from raising them in Burnaby for the last 10-15 years.

    The houses should be put out before the end of March for best results. Early April will work, but some of the bees will have already started building nests earlier. Even in this year's cold spring, most of my bees have already hatched out and are looking for homes. If you want them to start later, you can keep them in a refrigerator and put them out when trees need pollination. They are typically active whenever the temperature is 13 degrees C or above.

    Drilling holes in wood certainly produces homes that Mason Bees will occupy, but this type of home is not the best for good production. You really should use something that can be opened up to extract the cocoons, which should be washed in a mild bleach solution to clean the mites off. If the cocoons are not cleaned, the mite population will keep increasing and bee production will wither. If you are just getting started, you probably don't care about productivity yet. But consider that a typical bee hole 6" deep contains up to 10 cocoons. If one of the pupae up front dies , how do the remaining bees get out of the hole?

    I had a difficult time getting my colony started until I noticed that there were quite a few mason bees nesting in the utility pole in the back lane next to my property. I then looked around and found mason bees in just about every old utility pole in the neighborhood. I put one of my houses next to the utility pole and soon had a full house. Check utility poles during the warmest part of the day in April (when the temperature is in the teens or higher). You might be surprised by the amount of bee activity. Only old, weathered poles are used; the new ones with the smell of creosote will be avoided.
     
  8. Turftek

    Turftek Member

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    One last point I might add that has helped me tremendously with my colonies is placing them on an east facing wall just below the overhang. They really like early sun!

    And cedar works just fine. Mine have only emerged in the past week! Brrrr.
     
  9. alderbee

    alderbee Member

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    The nests dont have to be taken care of or aministered in any way just keep covered year round preferably in a garage or shed just put them in an old shed if the shed has openings they can get out and in.
    Dont build any extra spots for the nests, just use an existing convenient and hopefully permanent spot in a building, at least 61/2 feet high to be out of the way .such as where they happen to exist here for at least 20 years and then some. relatively undisturbed .
    They dont mind being disturbed when they are active and not at all when dormant.
    So anyways my old shed is built from degrade lumber with toredo holes in it and cut into non dimesional lumber it happens to be cedar contains bee's in every hole
    I checked a month ago and had a look at the gray cementious compound that plugged the bee nests .
    Nice light gray colour with small specks of black stuff like a concrete and not too much and not too little .
    Not easy stuff for predatory bee gobblers to get at.
    As far as i know these are the only native bee in this area ,I also believe that the common honeybee is an imported species in north america?
    So they have left and are doing quite well.
    comments?
     
  10. alderbee

    alderbee Member

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    why do you think that type of lumber is easier to drill?
     

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