British Columbia: Mason Bees

Discussion in 'Outdoor Gardening in the Pacific Northwest' started by Annell, Feb 26, 2008.

  1. Annell

    Annell Active Member

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    I am wondering if anyone in the lower mainland, particularly the north shore can give me some practical advice about mason bees. I am getting a cottage and 20 bees and I have neve looked after mason bees before. I am also getting a book of course, but it's always so much better to talk with people who have actually looked after bees.

    My big question is where to locate their home. the North side of the house? shade, part sun, full sun?

    I know the book will tell me, but again I'd love to hear from people who've had/have bees and gain their advice and suggestions.

    I want to plan for their arrival. Any adivce would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks,
    Anne
     
  2. Anne58

    Anne58 Active Member

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    Location:
    Burnaby, BC
    Hi Anne (another "Anne with an "e"" I see :o) )

    I have been keeping mason bees for over 5 years now. I have our nesting boxes in the shade of the house eave on the south side of the house. At Burnaby Village there is a large building that has cedar siding on the east side that is a huge mason bee nesting area so it gets all the morning sun in the spring.

    I usually empty out the straws they use for nesting about this time of the year. I always worry about the ones at the back of the straws having to wait for the ones at the front to exit and sometimes the middle or front bees don't survive for one reason. or another

    I put the cocoons in a small box and tie the box to the top of the nesting box. The bees emerge when they are ready, mid to late march for the males and a bit after that for the females.

    I make up new straws during the winter by wrapping newspaper around a pencil and securing with a small pieces of scotch tape. I have all the new straws in the nest boxes by the time the females emerge.

    A note about emptying the straws . . . sometimes it seems that the females will transfer pollen mites into their cells along with the pollen and egg. You will see this as a cell in the straw that is filled from end to end with a substance that looks like fine powder (except that is moves). I try and keep these guys away from my cocoons if I can. They seem to be ravenous eaters and multiply like crazy so the little bee larva don't have a chance and I don't want to 'seed' the new crop of bees with mites.

    The bees 'season' lasts through April and sometime a few females manage to last until May then the larva eat, pupate and sleep until the next spring.

    Hope you have fun with your bees! BTW they are very docile and on cool mornings in the spring the females will crawl onto your hand to get an early warm up before flying off to do their pollinating :o) It's neat to see how they press their bodies against your hand (or finger) so they can absorb our body heat!

    All the best,
    Anne
     
  3. Annell

    Annell Active Member

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    Thank you for your advice. I once read that mason bees don't have stingers, but soon learned that that was incorrect and they are just really very docile. Your story of holding them in your hand and them pressing in for warmth made me a little teary eyed, it's so beautiful to be connected to nature that way.

    I am really looking forward to learning and experiencing life with bees. My son, who is four, is also very excited. I know he will be a good steward to bees, last year in the spring he found a bumble bee sitting on our drive way, unbeknown to me he picked it up and carried it, cupped in his hands, around the side of the house where some flowers were blooming. He showed me his bee rescue then put it near the flowers. I was amazed at his gentleness and the lack of fear from the bee.

    Thank you for your advice on house placement. It is most helpful!

    another Anne
     
  4. Anne58

    Anne58 Active Member

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    Yes, they do have a stinger as I found out one day when one got between me and my sweater sleeve. The sting is not painful at all, just a bit of a jab to let you know they are there. Mosquitos are much worse!

    Anne
     
  5. cgjedi

    cgjedi Active Member

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    Location:
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    That was a great description. I'm wondering if you can go into more detail about your nesting boxes. What are you using and how large are they? When you use newspaper, how does it last and not get wet through the winter months?

    Thanks.
     
  6. Anne58

    Anne58 Active Member

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    I made the nesting boxes out of scraps of 1/2" cedar siding. The bottom is 7" long and the top and sides are about 9" long (1" longer than the botton to provide a wind and rain shelter for the straws). The bottom is about 2" longer than the straws so the bees have a little landing platform. The inside dimensions are 3 1/2" wide by 3" high (just the way it worked out with the scraps).

    The newspaper straws would probably last a few years, the bees will dig out the old ones but I usually clean out the nests and straws in late fall or early spring (before the end of March). We have quite a problem with pollen mites in the cells so I like to start with clean fresh straws every year.

    No problems with the straws getting wet during the winter I think because of the 'overhang' there is on the nest boxes and the distance in that the straws sit.

    Anne
     
  7. Pasquale

    Pasquale Active Member

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    What is the consensus? Should I put out my bees now, or wait another week and let the temperature worm-up a little more.
     
  8. Ralph Walton

    Ralph Walton Active Member 10 Years

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    Location:
    Denman Island,BC
    Wait till you see the first of the natural residents flying. I'm on Denman Island and there are none yet despite the early warm weather.
    Ralph
     
  9. vitog

    vitog Rising Contributor 10 Years

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    Location:
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    Here in North Burnaby my Mason bees are hatching and the Japanese plums and peaches are blooming. It is definitely time to put the Mason bees out.
     
  10. Lor1234

    Lor1234 Member

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    I put my bees out the beginning of March and they are still dormant. We had a few frost nights after that so I am afraid I may have put them out too soon. Has anyone else's bees hatched out. I'm in South Delta.
     
  11. cgjedi

    cgjedi Active Member

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    I'm in Surrey/Langley and they are out. Actually my asian pear trees also have the regular honey bees already too. There's lots of them this year - no hive disorder plague going on here.
     
  12. Pasquale

    Pasquale Active Member

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    1234 your male bees should have been out by now, were these your cocoons? Carefully try to cut open one male cocoon and see if the bee is still alive. Don’t be afraid it will be all right to do that.
     

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