Mason bees

March 13, 2018

Blue orchard mason bees. I'm obsessed with them, well, maybe not entirely obsessed, but I sure am a fan of encouraging EVERYONE to host the cute little buggers.

 

WHAT ARE THEY? you might be asking, and I'm finding LOTS of people here in Maine really have no idea what they are OR the INCREDIBLE benefits to keeping them. 

 

Let me start by saying they are workhorses for garden and orchard pollination and no garden or home should be without a few boxes. They are so easy to host, take virtually no effort and can change the vegetable and fruit production substantially in a small town,

 

I came to know of them in a very random and FORTUNATE way.  I had a friend who was listing a small farmhouse for sale. She explained that I needed to come check out the previous owners beehives and old tools to see if I was interested in anything. I hit the jackpot on all sorts of free stuff, including organic Rhubarb, raspberries and  strawberry plants growing in incredibly fertile soil.  It was the entire garage wall of mason bee boxes, maybe 60 or more that I took home and hung on the wall of my house and shed, that turned out to be the BEST part of the entire adventure.  It was early spring and I had no idea what to expect nor could I begin to comprehend what I was about to witness, let alone introduce into the community, over the next few years.

 

I really didn't know much about Mason bees 

I had already been keeping honeybees for about 5 years when the mason bees were introduced to my yard.  I'll keep the story brief.  The first spring it was a huge surprise to see them emerging in the hundreds from the tiny holes the cocoons were in.  They looked like across between a fuzzy bee and a fly. 

Mason bees are solitary bees. They emerge, pollinate, forage, Lay some eggs, then they die. The offspring starts the cycle next year,

 

The holes or cylinders house the larvae. Females are stacked in the back, to protect preserve the species in the event of a predator. The male larvae are laid last closest to the opening of the tube/hole. Think about it. It's SMART. 

 

The mason bees MUST come out to feed, they do not store food like a honeybee. Which means, if there's inclement weather, a honeybee can stay inside the hive the ENTIRE time the apple trees are in bloom= very few apples for the season.

 

Mason bees fill in all the gaps that a honeybee misses. Guess what that means? Orchards benefit from mason bees, vegetable gardens befit from mason bees, Entire neighborhoods and communities benefit from Mason bees. Food production increases across the board.

 

They are so easy to care for and fascinating to watch. Kids always enjoy asking questions, learning about them and trying to identify them in the gardens. 

They are native to North America and used widely for blueberry and orchard pollination. Honeybees are from Europe. 

I've spent 10 years studying these 2 pollinators. My advice: start keeping mason bees, Help increase the populations of our native pollinators. If you want to help with our food systems, start with the pollinators. 

 

I will be selling boxes and bee larvae this Season. P{ease follow the Facebook page for updates on arrival, plus I'll have a discussion event and answer questions. I'll also send out an email when they arrive. I'm starting from scratch, so we'll all be in it together :)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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