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  1. #1
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    Default My first season for mason bees...

    So, only crocuses blooming so far- no willow, maple, daffodils, or fruit trees yet.
    We have another big cold snap coming next week, but when that is over I will put out my 6 tubes of cocoons in the nesting boxes.

    Today I put up my two new mason bee nesting boxes, facing southeast, protected under the eaves of the porch, where they get fun morning sun:




    The top box I bought from Dave's Bees - he is a forum member here. It arrived with all its parchment paper liners neatly installed in the drilled wooden tunnels, ready to go.
    The other two 'cans' of cardboard nesting tubes with paper liners and a wooden box to set them in came from Seedcake.com. I also ordered 6 tubes full of cocoons from them.

    Notice I added a bit of black roofing paper to the tops of the two boxes to keep the rain out, and I also secured chicken wire guards to protect the nesting tubes from marauding woodpeckers. We do have woodpeckers all year here in our yard.

    I'll be taking the cocoons out of the refrigerator and installing them in with the cans as soon as this coming cold snap is ending. By that time there should be enough things blooming for the to forage ok. Only another week or two to go!
    Last edited by Omie; 03-19-2010 at 10:39 AM.
    The little bee returns with evening's gloom,
    To join her comrades in the braided hive... -Tennyson

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
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    Bucksport, Maine
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    177

    Default Re: My first season for mason bees...

    Omie,
    That is so cool and not just because….
    I have seen lots of male mason bees on my heather, coltsfoot, and snowdrops yesterday. I had a thought for releasing from tubes. Since the masons I’ve spotted are not mine, perhaps that is a good signal to put up my filled tubes. I have gotten these signals other years and for whatever reason ignored them and waited for redbud bloom. You should watch the crocuses for the little white faced males. I am putting everything up today. I like the location of your habitats and I know how much fun you and your friends will have watching these “busy little bees”.
    Dave - PM me if you are interested in natural beekeeping in Hancock County Maine.
    http://www.davesbees.com

  3. #3
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    Default Re: My first season for mason bees...

    Quote Originally Posted by DavesBees View Post
    Omie,
    That is so cool and not just because….
    I have seen lots of male mason bees on my heather, coltsfoot, and snowdrops yesterday. I had a thought for releasing from tubes. Since the masons I’ve spotted are not mine, perhaps that is a good signal to put up my filled tubes. I have gotten these signals other years and for whatever reason ignored them and waited for redbud bloom. You should watch the crocuses for the little white faced males. I am putting everything up today. I like the location of your habitats and I know how much fun you and your friends will have watching these “busy little bees”.
    Hi Dave,
    I am indeed watching for foraging wild bees on my crocuses and I'm watching for any trees to start blooming. Right now I only see crocuses blooming- absolutely nothing else yet! The forecast calls for one last cold snap the will be several days of high in 30's and lows of 16F (!) at night. So I am going to wait until that hard freeze prediction is safely past us. A couple nights in the high 20's wouldn't alarm me much but I'd hate to think of newly hatched masons with nothing to eat and trying to survive 16F for a couple of nights.

    I am starting to see foraging honeybees on warm days (not mine, sadly), but honeybees can forage much farther afield for blooms. Only another week or so to go before that last severe freeze danger is gone.
    Don't worry- I'm watching conditions like a hawk and can't wait to put the cocoons out to hatch. As I've said before, in past years there have been wild mason bees in my garden, so even if my own bought cocoons don't hatch for some reason, I'm sure some neighborhood masons will find and appreciate my little motels.
    I'm very excited!

    Today I am going to test the soil PH in our garden patch where 10 blueberry bushes will be planted next month. I'll likely have to adjust the PH for blueberries. I don't worry about the soon to be planted raspberry patch though- raspberries are tough.
    The two berry patches will provide yet more safe blooms for my honeybees and mason bees to enjoy.
    The little bee returns with evening's gloom,
    To join her comrades in the braided hive... -Tennyson

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
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    Default Re: My first season for mason bees...

    Yesterday, I put my 6 tubes of cocoons out in the lower mason bee box, alongside the two 'cans' of nesting tubes, inside the box for protection.
    Tomorrow will be in the mid 50'sF, followed by about 9 more days predicted in the high 50's through the 70's (!!) Surely it will be hatching time if the cocoons I bought are alive.
    If not, then I will have to wait and hope for the wild local solitary bees to find my boxes. But I have high hopes.

    My two boxes are right on the back porch near the kitchen door, and several people have already been examining and asking about them-
    First, Jim the mailman who delivers our mail to the kitchen porch. Jim loves to photograph flowers closeup, and he also got a kick out of delivering my composting worms last year for my worm bin: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_9fPBEJTqGz...st-worms-1.jpg So he loved hearing about the new little bees.
    Then, the milkman who delivers our milk in glass bottles every week to the milk box on the porch there. I caught him peering right into the boxes trying to see what the heck was in there. He loved my explanation and seemed fascinated.
    Also, the lady who comes to cut my husband's hair every 6 weeks or so. She runs a 4H club, and she actually got all the kids to do a worm composting bin project last year after she got inspired by my worm bin. Today I told her maybe the next 4H project will have to be native bee nesting boxes. She seemed mighty interested.
    The little bee returns with evening's gloom,
    To join her comrades in the braided hive... -Tennyson

  5. #5
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    Default Re: My first season for mason bees...

    Quote Originally Posted by DavesBees View Post
    You should watch the crocuses for the little white faced males.
    Dave, do the males of the blue orchard bees also have little white 'beards'? I thought it was only the red mason bee males that had the little white fur on the face? If the blue orchard males have white beard tufts, that will be so fun!
    The little bee returns with evening's gloom,
    To join her comrades in the braided hive... -Tennyson

  6. #6
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    Nov 2009
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    Default They're HATCHING! :D

    My solitary mason bee cocoons are hatching!!
    After 4 days of over 50F in the nesting box, this morning I noticed one of the little mad caps was missing on one of the six cocoon tubes, and I could see the empty chamber. The mud cap had been there intact yesterday. I could faintly hear little clicking noises from the tubes...somebody was in there trying to chew there way out!

    Shortly after that, I saw a couple other mud caps coming off, and when i took a flashlight and a magnifying glass, I was able to see fuzzy brown movements of a wiggling cocoon inside. By hanging around the box and checking every few minutes, I was able to watch two new adult mason bee males emerge from their cocoons! I had to be very quick with my camera, because once they exited the tube they only sat for a few moments stretching their wings before they took off flying to parts unknown! Here I thought they were supposed to hang around the box waiting for females, but no, they seemed to have an agenda. Maybe they were thirsty or just doing an orientation flight?

    Anyway, I'm pretty excited to know I was responsible for adding some new little mason bees to my neighborhood. I feel lucky to have seen them be born and to have gotten any pictures at all!
    I think the rest will likely hatch later today and tomorrow. I hope to see the bees come back and hang around the nesting boxes soon. I'll be watching...







    The little bee returns with evening's gloom,
    To join her comrades in the braided hive... -Tennyson

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Location
    Cache County, Utah
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    16

    Default Re: My first season for mason bees...

    Omie, your high quality photos have provided a possible answer as to why the first emerging bees seem to have flown away. Looking at the last photo, you can see a cluster of pollen mites clinging to the back edge of the thorax of the male bee. There may also be a few mites scattered on the abdomen as well. The mites overwinter on the outside surfaces of the bee pupae inside the nesting tubes. When the adult bees emerge the mites attach themselves to the bees in order to hitch a ride to flower blossoms. The mites do not attack the bees but rather use them as a mode of transportation. The bees probably experience some irritation when carrying mites.

    Although I have not seen published information on this, I believe that the bees will try and shake off the mites, and it could be that your bees are trying to rid themselves of the mites through flight. As you can see the mites are relatively large in size. For comparison, picture an average sized person with several dozen tarantula sized critters clinging to him.

    It is important that the dormant mason bees that are being marketed throughout the county be inspected for these mites, as well as for parasitic and predatory insects. The bee populations (both managed and wild) will be healthier and the risk of introducing non-native arthropods to the region will be minimized. Mites are very easy to remove from loose cocoons by several methods, including dipping in diluted bleach solutions and desiccation through air drying.

    Dale

  8. #8
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    Default Re: My first season for mason bees...

    Dale, this is amazing information- thank you!

    And here I was marveling at all the pretty colors on that bee- when in fact the rusty red was actually a bunch of hitch-hiking mites!

    This is eye opening information. My cocoons were bought from an online garden supply place, who seem to have gotten them from Knox Cellars bees place: http://www.knoxcellars.com/Merchant5...tegory_Code=BO The garden place also sold me the Knox 'cans' nesting sites with nesting tubes that I bought as well. Perhaps I should let them know about this issue.
    I also am now in some doubt as to whether a significant portion of my cocoons in the 6 tubes hatched at all, but I need to wait another couple of weeks or so before i open up those cocoon tubes to see what there is to be seen. Once I examine the tubes for any dead unhatched bees, I will know more. I was rather puzzled as to why there were no bees hanging around on the boxes after hatching. I now know that the females emerge up to a couple weeks after the males.

    Do these mites drop off the bee onto flowers once the bee begins to fly about and feed?

    I just did a bunch of reading about pollen mites on mason bees.
    Once I get my own colony established, I plan to harvest the cocoons in the Fall and clean them using that sand method I watched on Youtube. Then I can store them safely over the winter in a pest-free state.
    But alas- no colony yet!
    Hopefully there are still some live females in the cocoon tubes that will emerge in another week or two.
    Last edited by Omie; 04-04-2010 at 06:35 PM.
    The little bee returns with evening's gloom,
    To join her comrades in the braided hive... -Tennyson

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Location
    Cache County, Utah
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    16

    Default Re: My first season for mason bees...

    Some mites will drop off but a few will usually remain with the female bees to re-infest the new nests and start the cycle over again. The best solution is to have clean cocoons before the bees emerge in the spring.

    I have contacted several national suppliers of blue orchard bees in the past about this issue and they always tell me that they can't afford the time and effort required to clean up mite contaminated pupae. At a retail cost of a dollar or more per bee that excuse is hard to believe.

    Dale

  10. #10
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    Default Re: My first season for mason bees...

    Yes I agree there is no excuse considering the price they get for cocoons!
    What makes it worse is that the pollen mites will result in fewer live bees per tube, so you are getting even less for your money than you may be thinking when they state that each tube has 'typically' a certain number of cocoons in it.

    Well I am counting on doing my own bee raising and cocoon cleaning, once I get a small established colony going. Hopefully some masons will be attracted to lay in my boxes this season- whether they bee from the ones I bought or from local ones living in my area.

    Thank you for your posts, very helpful!
    The little bee returns with evening's gloom,
    To join her comrades in the braided hive... -Tennyson

  11. #11
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    Default Re: My first season for mason bees...

    YAY! Things are happening!

    A few days ago I watched two male mason bees emerge from the cocoon tubes and fly off.

    Today, I observed at least two female mason bees emerge and fly off too. They were much larger than the males, and bluish charcoal-black.

    BUT....there are at least two OTHER female solitary bees coming and going while all this emerging was going on- they look different than the blue mason females, they look a bit fuzzier and more medium brown. I will have to work with the photos from my camera to see if I got any decent photos- they are so quick when they come and go!
    I saw at least two of these visiting females at the same time, zooming in and going right into the new clean tubes, then coming back out a minute later and flying off again. I saw they had bright yellow pollen on the underside of their abdomen, and were bringing it into the tube of their choice. They were coming back repeatedly to the same chosen tubes they liked. Perhaps later tonight I can sort through the batch of mostly useless photos I nabbed. I hope to be able to positively identify them soon. (Or- do female blue orchards look bluish black at emergence and then turn a brownish as they fly around?)

    I am so thrilled!! Solitary bees are coming to my boxes!!

    I have fresh shallow water and also some nice soggy mud set out nearby for them.
    Last edited by Omie; 04-07-2010 at 05:00 PM.
    The little bee returns with evening's gloom,
    To join her comrades in the braided hive... -Tennyson

  12. #12
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    Default Re: My first season for mason bees...

    Ok, I managed to get a couple of photos of these fast moving little bees as they are coming and going from my two nesting boxes with tubes. It sure is hard to catch them in time as they whizz by!

    I saw another female blue orchard bee emerge from the cocoon tube today.

    Quite a few solitary bees are busy going in and out of the brand new nesting tubes. I see two apparently distinct species. The blue orchards are easy to identify, with their beautiful metallic blue black coloring.
    But there are also warm brown colored solitary bees using the tubes as well. They are more similar in appearance to honeybees, but are a softer muted brown and rather fuzzy. They don't seem to have very contrasting abdomen stripes...it a softer peach fuzz appearance with no bright colors.

    Here are two blue orchard females using the tubes in Davesbees' drilled wooden nesting box:





    Here is a blue orchard mason female using a tube in the can o' tubes setup I bought:


    The photos of the brown bees are in the next post....
    The little bee returns with evening's gloom,
    To join her comrades in the braided hive... -Tennyson

  13. #13
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    Default Re: My first season for mason bees...

    Here is a slightly unfocused shot of the mystery species brownish solitary bee going into her favorite tube.... you can also see the feet of a blue orchard bee just visible in another tube:


    And here the brown bee says Hello from her little tube parlor:


    I would love to know what species of bee the brownish ones are. There are several of them nesting right alongside the blue orchard masons. I live in New York state, east of the Albany area, near the Mass. border. Can anyone help me identify it?- I will try to take some clearer photos soon.
    The little bee returns with evening's gloom,
    To join her comrades in the braided hive... -Tennyson

  14. #14
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    Oct 2009
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    Cache County, Utah
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    Default Re: My first season for mason bees...

    The brown bee in your photos looks like Osmia taurus to me. Someone familiar with mason bees of the northeast should be able to verify or correct this identification.
    Dale

  15. #15
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    Default Re: My first season for mason bees...

    Hi Dale,
    thank you! I looked at all the photos online for Northeastern region masons and it does indeed look the most like Osmia taurus. I suppose it's possible it is cornifrons, and I will look more closely for horns, but really my brown bees do look exactly like the pix of O.taurus I am seeing online.
    I was interested to discover that both those species are Asian invasives, and both are now established in the northeast here.
    I will continue to investigate further and take more pictures, but will go with the tentative ID of O.taurus for now.
    Thank you so much for your help.
    Despite the invasive issue, I still think it's cool to have two different species in my boxes.

    I am a bit surprised that C.taurus has no common name, the way O.cornifrons has (horn-faced bee).
    So...I will invent one!
    Last edited by Omie; 04-09-2010 at 11:13 AM.
    The little bee returns with evening's gloom,
    To join her comrades in the braided hive... -Tennyson

  16. #16
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    Default Re: My first season for mason bees...

    I took a little video this morning of my two types of mason bees coming and going from my nesting sites on the kitchen porch...
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5zkagSVQBrg
    The little bee returns with evening's gloom,
    To join her comrades in the braided hive... -Tennyson

  17. #17
    Join Date
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    Camas, WA
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    Default Re: My first season for mason bees...

    Today I went out to clean out my old tubes. I left the cocoons in the tubes and let them hatch out that way. It has been about a month since they started hatching.

    Well, I was opening a tube to see why it didn't hatch and a mature bee popped out. She sat there for a minute and then flew off. As I opened more straws I released 4 more bees.

    The others I carried over to the box where my tubes are. As I was carrying my last Mason Bee over I saw this:

    (WARNING...this is X-rated)




    I had heard of the "white faced males" but I hadn't seen them. It took him about 2 minutes to find her.

  18. #18
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    Default Re: My first season for mason bees...

    Shocking!!!

    lol!

    Hey, great photos of the 'happy event'!
    The little bee returns with evening's gloom,
    To join her comrades in the braided hive... -Tennyson

  19. #19
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    Jun 2009
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    Bucksport, Maine
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    177

    Default Re: My first season for mason bees...

    What kind of birds are those again. The first photo is great for the comparing the difference between the males and females.

    Update: 17 of 27 tubes are plugged already and I drilled and stuffed another 22 hole block for them.
    Last edited by DavesBees; 04-18-2010 at 06:52 AM.
    Dave - PM me if you are interested in natural beekeeping in Hancock County Maine.
    http://www.davesbees.com

  20. #20
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    Default Re: My first season for mason bees...

    Dave what birds are you talking about?

    I bet next year I will have the same kind of big population of solitary bees that you are now experiencing!
    The little bee returns with evening's gloom,
    To join her comrades in the braided hive... -Tennyson

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