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  1. #41
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Location
    Port Orchard, WA, USA
    Posts
    9

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

    Well 10 days have past since I last posted. Our weather has improved and the Mason bees have been busy. There are now 47 holes capped and the bees are still very active. They must not use up life cycle days while loafing around in the holes. I saw active bees the end of March and they still are really flying today. I just may get some apples and a new crop of bees next year. The trees are about finished blooming but lots of flowers around the yard for the bees to finish up their work.

  2. #42
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Columbia county, New York, USA
    Posts
    1,540

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

    Yes! I just knew your bees would get real active as soon as you got warm sunny weather, Bob! 47 tubes filled?? that's GREAT!
    I have 35 filled as of this morning, and they are still active too.
    Amazing little creatures.

    My mailman who comes to our kitchen porch where the mason bee houses are loves to check out the boxes. He won't go anywhere near my honeybee hives, but he says he really likes my little mason bees....he knows they won't sting.
    The little bee returns with evening's gloom,
    To join her comrades in the braided hive... -Tennyson

  3. #43
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Location
    Seattle, WA
    Posts
    40

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

    BobOlallaWa: A agree, it's been a bad season for mason bees here in Seattle as well.

    I started with 350+ cocoons in March in various emergence boxes. Of the 350 cocoons, only 50 females stayed to nest--the rest either dispersed or died. because all but about 10 cocoons were viable.

    I've been counting the nesting female population at night, with a flashlight. I started with 50 in the first week of April when most emerged, but as of May 18th I'm down to only 24 females in the various houses/condos at night.

    Last year my population grew by 7x. This year I hope it just breaks even. Even with 350 cocoons, I still have only 75 completed tubes so far. Bob, how many bees did you start with, and what type of emergence method did you use?

    To readers in other parts of the country, Seattle had a very cool and wet spring in 2010. Cold/windy/showery and 54 degrees for weeks on end = not good bee conditions, wherever you are.

  4. #44
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Location
    Port Orchard, WA, USA
    Posts
    9

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

    Seattleite: I am not sure how many bees I started with this spring. Somewhere between 3 and 5 hundred 4 to 6 inch holes I would guess. I had some partly filled blocks of plastic honeycomb material I set out inside a larger box for emergence . Even though the bees filled those holes, there were lots of holes that didn't produce bees. I also have 4, 4x4 blocks with around 100 holes in each. This year I didn't enclose them (but will next spring) so they are reusing those holes this year also. I set out a bunch of the cardboard tubes and one 6x6 block with paper inserts. Right now I have between 95 and 100 capped holes in the new tubes and 6x6, as the past few days were sunny and warm. They are also reusing the 4x4's and under the wrap board at the top of siding on the garage and house end so lots of activity. Now it is rain and 50 again so not looking so good for many more holes to be filled this year. When it was nice the bees were fighting at the tubes. I had lots of bees around the holes at a time and they were not at all happy with each other. I will need to make more houses to have the tubes spread out so there aren't so many bees using the same area at the same time. I have been playing around with these guys for a few years. Adding new 4x4's each year and giving starter sets to friends so they could also enjoy them. I am getting rid of the plastic honeycomb (a very expensive lesson that was) and the 4x4 systems and will be using the paper tubes and the 6x6 with paper liners so everything can be kept clean. I thought I was helping the little guys by providing homes when in fact not so much. I will still provide friends and kids with small pieces of 6x6 or 2x6 with liners so they can enjoy them and provide bees for their area.

  5. #45
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Columbia county, New York, USA
    Posts
    1,540

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

    I plan to use the sand method for cleaning my cocoons this winter.
    I know there are pests lurking about.

    Lately i have seen a little wasp going in and out of the tubes in my nesters, and I'm pretty sure it must be a mason wasp. It's small and quite slender, mostly black with a black abdomen with thin bright yellow undulating stripes on it. It's a pretty and graceful little thing, looks a lot like this: http://whileyphoto.net/data/thumbnai...icornis%29.jpg I'm assuming it is just using the tubes for nesting and not laying its eggs in the bee egg chambers like parasitic flies do. I read it hunts out insects and caterpillars etc, paralyzes them, and puts them in with its egg...no pollen 'bread' involved. This little wasp does not match the pix of mason bee parasitic wasps I see online.

    Anyone have more info on this?
    The little bee returns with evening's gloom,
    To join her comrades in the braided hive... -Tennyson

  6. #46
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Columbia county, New York, USA
    Posts
    1,540

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

    My mason bees seem to be winding down now, only seeing one bee come by once in a while.
    Now to let the houses alone so the eggs and larvae can develop into bees inside the tubes.
    I'll take the houses down in the late Fall and see what there is to be seen.
    I must have over 50 filled tubes, which includes the two species I attracted.
    The little bee returns with evening's gloom,
    To join her comrades in the braided hive... -Tennyson

  7. #47
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Location
    Bucksport, Maine
    Posts
    177

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

    Omie,
    Mine are about done as well. I have no idea how many I have back in all my release boxes. They didn’t see the one way signs I put up. I got no leafcutter bees at all. The leaf cutter block has been used by smaller mason bees. They did take time to trim out some of the paper tube at the entrance on one hole. It must have been deformed or something. I still have a few holes open of both sizes so we will see if there are any more takers. Watch for holes that have been covered with a smooth mud cap.....wasps. If you clean them they don't look anything like the masons. I don't clean mine but I may peak in a tube or two. I don't really care who moves in and I'm satisfied with my sucess. I think I could build one of those bee walls and they would fill it! I really like your blog.
    Dave - PM me if you are interested in natural beekeeping in Hancock County Maine.
    http://www.davesbees.com

  8. #48
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Location
    Port Orchard, WA, USA
    Posts
    9

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

    The Mason bees here are finished as well. It was not the best year, but looks like I will have plenty of bees for next year. I sent most of the tubes away to a guy who kills the mites with a controlled temperature of around 80*. He will send back new empty tubes and bees early next spring. Hope that works, as I had lots of mites this spring.

  9. #49
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Location
    Seattle, WA
    Posts
    40

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

    Bob, Dave, and Omie - can you share your end-of-year observations on how your populations of bees did?

  10. #50
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Location
    Port Orchard, WA, USA
    Posts
    9

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

    Well I think the bees came back strong at the end. Lots of holes filled, not sure they were all full or just capped off. I would say not quite as good as last year but should have plenty of bees for this next year. Not much fruit on the trees but not the bees fault, the weather was very bad during the bloom.

  11. #51
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Columbia county, New York, USA
    Posts
    1,540

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

    Well, 2010 was my first year for putting up mason bee houses.
    I had three blocks up:
    http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_9fPBEJTqGz...-April2010.jpg
    The favorite nesting spot was for some reason the lower can in the middle box, which had about 70 tubes in each can. But some other tubes were filled randomly in the other boxes too.

    I had bought 6 tubes of blue orchard mason bees, but I'd estimate that only about half of the cocoons hatched (I opened them up in early Fall to see inside the purchased tubes)- that would have yielded about 15 live bees total, maybe 4-6 females perhaps?
    Anyway, I saw several blue orchards females filling tubes, and also quite a few little brown fuzzy Osmia taurus masons were actively filling tubes as well- so they were already in my area.

    Altogether I'd say I must have about 50-60 tubes full, of both species. A few were nibbled into later on (wasps?) but the chicken wire kept any birds out for sure. I assume the wasps only damaged the outer male cocoons on those tubes.
    This means I am going to have a lot more bees around next Spring, assuming they winter ok.
    I'm hoping to get a few leaf cutter bees next year, but didn't see any this year.

    I plan to remove the boxes and store the full tubes in my unheated garage for the winter, protected from ice storms and freezing rain and snow. But I'm not putting them in there yet because it's not consistently cold enough yet- the garage is still a bit too warm from the sun mid-day. A couple more weeks I think, then it will be cold all the time. I will put fresh paper in the tubes for next year's nesting.
    The little bee returns with evening's gloom,
    To join her comrades in the braided hive... -Tennyson

  12. #52
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Location
    Woodinville, Washington
    Posts
    35

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

    There is no excuse for shipping unclean cocoons. I agree, for the price one pays for mason bee cocoons, you should expect to receive quality cocoons.

    I've been working with several commercial mason bee producers and buyers; for now we've agreed upon these standards:

    · A+ : no pests, 2:1 M/F ratio, controlled 6 month wintering at 4C, 39F ±1F
    · A : <2% pests, *2:1 M/F ratio, controlled 6 month wintering at 4C, 39F ±1F
    · B+ : <5% pests, 2:1 M/F ratio, controlled 6 month wintering at 4C, 39F ±1F
    · B : <5% pests, 2:1 M/F ratio
    · Common – No pest check, no M/F ratio check

    When buying, I'd track down who cares.

    Dave, Crown Bees

  13. #53
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Columbia county, New York, USA
    Posts
    1,540

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

    I agree, Dave.

    With a little bit of luck, and barring some sort of disaster that kills off all my cocoons over the winter, I don't anticipate having to buy any more blue orchard cocoons now.
    I may try some horn-faced bees (possibly through you?) for this Spring -I think they are normally found in the northeast, correct?
    I'm also hoping to attract some local wild leafcutter bees to my blocks one way or another.
    The little bee returns with evening's gloom,
    To join her comrades in the braided hive... -Tennyson

  14. #54
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Location
    Woodinville, Washington
    Posts
    35

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

    Yes Omie, I will have hornfaced available to send out to the NE. We don't have many. To track down people east of the Rockies who would like to help raise hornfaced (and eastern blue orchard bees) would be nice!

    Dave

  15. #55
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Location
    Pueblo, Colorado, USA
    Posts
    603

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

    Sometimes when I'm splitting old stumps and wood I pick up for winter fuel I come across native bee cocoons. Usually I toss them in a cardboard box and then put them out in the spring.

    Out of curiosity, is there a way to tell the difference between a male blue orchard bee cocoon and a female blue orchard bee cocoon? If so how can one tell the difference and, similarly, what about hornfaced and leafcutter bee cocoons. Any way to tell the difference between the sexes of those cocoons also.

  16. #56
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Location
    Woodinville, Washington
    Posts
    35

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

    rwurster - yes, it's quite easy. in general, the males are small cocoons and the females the larger. You should have about a 2:3 F:M ratio. (when you weigh all the females against all the males, it should be about the same weight.)

    Hornfaced should be a lighter brown cocoon.
    M/F for hornfaced are similar to above.

    Leafcutters are very obvious... instead of mud, they bring in bits of leaves.

  17. #57
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Location
    Woodinville, Washington
    Posts
    35

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

    for better cocoon pictures... go to my website and look at the pictures in the harvesting section under gardener.

    http://crownbees.com

    Dave

  18. #58
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    Location
    Weatherford,Texas,USA
    Posts
    431

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

    are these bees in Texas? I am near Fort Worth. I have seen a metalic green bee working the dandelions
    "It's better to die upon your feet than to live upon your knees!" Zapata

  19. #59
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Location
    Woodinville, Washington
    Posts
    35

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

    Jaseemtp -
    there are thousands of native insects across the US. We know of just a few that are "manageable." ...they use straws or a hive that we can move around. There are many more that can't be moved and are best left in the wild.

    There are both hornfaced and blue orchard bees in Texas... they both survive there just fine.

    Dave

  20. #60
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
    Location
    Middle TN
    Posts
    86

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

    I noticed on Woodinvilledave website that it said that the mason bees do not like humid states such as Florida and Missouri, what about TN?

    Thanks

    Bryn

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