Mason bees

Well it has been awhile since I have had the time to blog but there have been plenty of gardening and outside jobs completed this week at home and at the school garden, although nothing very exciting.   I spent today at the Wheeler Farm Market enjoying the last of the truly hot weather.  I talked to a lot of people about my newest interest, Mason Bees.

A friend gave me an article about these very beneficial insects and I have done quite a bit of research about them.  For those who have never heard of Mason Bees you are probably not alone.  These bees are small, black colored, solitary creatures who do not create a hive.  They live throughout the United States, anywhere they can find a suitable home to build their nest cavities.  Unlike honey bees they do not build a hive or make honey.   They like to find 5/16 inch wide, four to eight inch holes where they deposit pollen and an egg and  the female bee plugs up the nesting chamber with mud.  The bee continues the same process until the entire hole is filled with eggs and mud plugged cavities.   Mason bees are one of the earliest pollinators to begin work in the spring, particularly beneficial for fruit crops.   They are over a hundred times better pollinators than honey bees for several reasons:  they are solitary creatures who spend their short lives pollinating and procreating, they do not waste time and energy on a hive, they live within a small home range (usually under a hundred yards), and unlike honey bees they will visit multiple types of flowering plants on the same trip from home.

A small colony of Mason Bees ( 50 or so), is plenty to pollinate a large suburban yard.   To attract and keep them in your yard all you need is a suitable house and the bees need access to moist soil.  My search of internet images revealed many types of structures utilized for Mason Bees.  What the structures have in common is the size of the hole (5/16 of an inch) and the best houses allow for paper straw or parchment paper inserts into the holes so the bee cocoons can be removed, inspected and cleaned of mites.  If you plan to use the straws or parchment paper inserts drill 3/8 inch holes and the paper will conform to 5/16.  Once the cocoons are cleaned they can be stored in a refrigerator until they are needed in the spring.   I built my first Mason Bee house, which like many of my first tries, needs a little work.  I think I have found a good design and now I just need to find an inexpensive drill press to make straight holes.   My first try ended up in my backyard.   I don’t use my backyard as a show garden much because it includes a lot of my initial project rejects but they are still functional although not very pretty.  The birds and the bees don’t seem to care (the first birds and the bees comment in any of my blogs, ha).

My other big project this week was helping friends prune trees in their backyard in preparation for a wedding dinner next week.  I forgot to take a before picture but the aftermath is captured below.

Needless to say I whacked the heck out of the trees and I think they will like it (they are out of town until tonight).  Pretty brave of them to leave me alone with pruners without much guidance and supervision.   I will take an after photo once I get rid of all the branches.  I have cut and hauled about half of them back to my house where I will use a borrowed chipper/shredder to mulch them.  I always have a home for yard waste.


About urbancompostsystems

I am a retired law enforcement officer who is an avid gardener. I have a compost bin business named Urban Compost Systems. I believe strongly in the concept of growing healthy food and I utilize chickens and redworms in my "compost system". The only ingredients that I need from outside my system are leaves in the fall and some supplemental grass clippings from neighbors. I make hundreds of gallons of compost in my four bin system. I thoroughly enjoy the summer bounty I get from my yard and I take great pride in knowing that I am using my yardwaste to make healthy compost for my yard.
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