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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Columbia county, New York, USA
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    1,535

    Default My second year for Mason bees- 2011

    Well it's April 8th and my 3 nesting blocks are up and ready with fresh lined tubes.
    I also put up a big can filled with some dried Japanese knotweed reeds i harvested last Fall- those are in all different diameters so it will be interesting to see anyone come to those.

    But my cocoons are still in the fridge. Even though we will have more than 3 days in a row this week of over 50F, there is truly almost nothing blooming yet, no willows or maples or dandelions, not my crab apple tree yet...nothing. Even the honeybees are just barely bringing in any pollen, and they forage several miles out, unlike masons. I strongly feel my bees will not find enough in their forage radius to live on yet, so I'm keeping them chilled a while longer. Another good indication to wait is that there is no activity yet at the nesting blocks from any wild neighborhood mason bees, so I don't think any have emerged yet in the wild. Last night was around 25F.

    I have about 50 tubes of cocoons, but I figure each tube may only have an average of 3 viable bees emerge successfully. I estimate low.
    They are split between eastern blue orchards (Osmia lignaria) and the little brown Osmia taurus, an import from Asia which is now locally abundant.
    I also have 10 cocoons of horn-faced bee from Dave at CrownBees.com.
    Lastly, there is one lonely filled tube from the 'mystery' bee that got filled in a smaller diameter tube later last summer, and plugged with chewed green stuff- I suspect a leaf cutter bee of some sort. I can't wait to see if that one in particular emerges!

    I am using 'emergence boxes' that are the boxes that bank checks arrive in, with a small cut out hole in one end for the bees to get out. I will tie these to the nesting blocks. This is so the bees will emerge and then find the fresh tubes available right there, and not likely be able to find their way back into the check-box to re-nest in the old dirty tubes.

    Now I just need to wait for a few trees or flowers to start blooming so I can set the cocoons out...
    The little bee returns with evening's gloom,
    To join her comrades in the braided hive... -Tennyson

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Columbia county, New York, USA
    Posts
    1,535

    Default Re: My second year for Mason bees- 2011

    I set my cocoons out today in the two emergence bankcheck boxes, strapped to the nest boxes.
    Fruit trees not blooming yet, but a few dogwoods and forsythia blooming, daffodils, etc. I figure they'll take a few more days to warm up and start emerging from their cocoons anyway. What a late Spring we are having!
    The little bee returns with evening's gloom,
    To join her comrades in the braided hive... -Tennyson

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Columbia county, New York, USA
    Posts
    1,535

    Default Re: My second year for Mason bees- 2011

    Had lots of male solitary bees emerge today! There were many little poops around the holes in the exit boxes (the bees will poop first thing after emerging, before they fly for the first time). The poops told me the bees had come out of the emergance boxes and were not just neighborhood bees coming around.

    I saw some fuzzy brown male Osmia taurus, and quite a few little male Osmia lignaria (blue orchard masons). Both species had nested in my tubes last year. The blue orchard males were easily recognized by their long antennae, blue metallic abdomens, and their very cute little brushy white moustaches!
    I'm hoping my 10 bought cocoons of Osmia cornifrons (hornfaced bee) will hatch out as well- will examine the contents of the emergence boxes in a couple of weeks or so. Females might still be emerging several weeks from now, so I need to give them time.

    I missed having the sweet little solitary bees buzzing about on our kitchen porch- so nice to have them back again! Jim the mailman enjoys stopping to watch them as well, when he comes to deliver our mail to our porch.
    The little bee returns with evening's gloom,
    To join her comrades in the braided hive... -Tennyson

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Columbia county, New York, USA
    Posts
    1,535

    Default My horn faced bees are emerging and mating!

    Last winter I got 10 cocoons of horn faced bees (Osmia cornifrons) from Dave at Crownbees.com . Today 7 of the 10 have already hatched and are mating. They look different from my other two species of masons (O.taurus & O.lignaria).
    I got some good photos of one cornifrons couple mating near the nest boxes on my porch this morning. The male was doing some strange gymnastics...see them HERE.
    The little bee returns with evening's gloom,
    To join her comrades in the braided hive... -Tennyson

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Location
    Bucksport, Maine
    Posts
    177

    Default Re: My horn faced bees are emerging and mating!

    Omie,
    Really nice photos! Did you have any mason bees try to go back in the release box. I came up with a simple solution to prevent it. I just rolled a piece of window screen on a pencil and stuck it in the hole. Then I duct taped it to the box so it wouldn't fall out. The release block is on the left in this video. http://www.vimeo.com/23126028
    Dave - PM me if you are interested in natural beekeeping in Hancock County Maine.
    http://www.davesbees.com

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Location
    Seattle, WA
    Posts
    40

    Default Re: My horn faced bees are emerging and mating!

    Omie, I think those are the best mason bee pictures I've ever seen. Thanks for sharing!

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
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    Columbia county, New York, USA
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    Default Re: My horn faced bees are emerging and mating!

    Quote Originally Posted by DavesBees View Post
    Omie,
    Really nice photos! Did you have any mason bees try to go back in the release box. I came up with a simple solution to prevent it. I just rolled a piece of window screen on a pencil and stuck it in the hole. Then I duct taped it to the box so it wouldn't fall out. The release block is on the left in this video.
    Yes Dave, i did have some bees trying to go back in the release boxes (bank check boxes with a 1/2" hole) and nest in the old tubes again. What I did was take the tubes out of the boxes, put a rubber band around them, and put them in a plastic ziploc bag where I made a small 1/4" hole on each end of the bag, near both tube ends. I attached the bag with tubes onto the nesting blocks. This seemed to work, since the bees could exit easily but couldn't figure out how to get back into the plastic bag like they were able to with the box. Everything was in the shade and the weather was nice.

    Quote Originally Posted by Seattleite View Post
    Omie, I think those are the best mason bee pictures I've ever seen. Thanks for sharing!
    Wow, thanks! I liked the pale green porch paint background- that's where the amorous couple was- on my kitchen porch floor.... rather unseemly! lol
    The little bee returns with evening's gloom,
    To join her comrades in the braided hive... -Tennyson

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Columbia county, New York, USA
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    1,535

    Default Re: My horn faced bees are emerging and mating!

    An update towards the end of 2011....

    It was a good year for my solitary/mason bees. I counted 183 full or mostly full tubes.
    I sorted through them all today- saved the untouched ones to use again, and tossed a few bad ones. Of the good filled tubes, I marked the back/rear end of each paper tube liner with a magic marker so I'd know which end the bees would be coming out of next Spring, and I'd be able to place them correctly to emerge outward. I spot checked about a dozen tubes to make sure there were viable cocoons in the tubes. The tubes seem to contain an average of 3 good cocoons each- some have as few as 2, some have 4 or 5. A few empty or damaged chambers in the inspected straws as well, but enough good cocoons to be productive. I'm pleased!

    Two years ago I started out with only 6 bought tubes of blue orchard bees, about half of which never emerged, but i know some local mason bees also came to the nest boxes that year. I know of three species that I definitely saw nesting in and filling my tubes this past year- the eastern blue orchard (Osmia lignaria), the little brown Osmia taurus, and the Horn-faced bee (Osmia cornifrons). So my tubes now contain a mix of at least those three species.
    With 183 tubes containing perhaps 3 live bees each, that represents maybe 450-550 bees next Spring. I'm ordering more tubes and liners! I'm going to ask my husband to make a single large tall narrow wood box for our porch next year, with 'shelves' to pile the tubes on. Sort of like a deep CD shelf tower. lol!

    Just as I successfully stored my cocoons last year, I put the unopened full nesting straws carefully in a large ziploc bag with a bunch of little holes poked in it (for air circulation) in my veggie drawer in the fridge, along with a wet folded paper towel left in an open plastic bag to ensure the drawer maintains some humidity. Some folks use a damp sponge in the drawer, but either damp sponge or paper towel are placed so they doesn't actually wet the straws.

    It's been fun this year!
    The little bee returns with evening's gloom,
    To join her comrades in the braided hive... -Tennyson

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Location
    Pueblo, Colorado, USA
    Posts
    724

    Default Re: My horn faced bees are emerging and mating!

    Most of my leaf cutter bee cocoons got nailed by parasitic wasps this year but the wasps didnt get far enough in to the blocks to get the mason bees. I also got some cocoons that i have never seen before, it lookes like the ends of the blocks were sealed with construction adhesive in late summer. In December I'll open my blocks up to see what is in them but this year has been horrible for me as far as solitary bees are concerned. I always let mine winter in a couple 5 gallon buckets in a hog shed (covered with mesh to keep the mice away). I can't wait for springtime!

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Columbia county, New York, USA
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    Default Re: My horn faced bees are emerging and mating!

    rwurster, a neighbor of mine down the road had a little bunch of tubes put out this year. Only one solitary bee checked it out but didn't nest in it, and she moved away last month and gave it to me. When I examined her tubes last week, the only action in them was some green leaf chambers obviously made by some leafcutter bee, but whatever offspring had been laid in them was gone- perhaps a victim of parasites or insect predators.
    Interesting that we are only 1/2 mile away from each other- but she got only leafcutter bees, and I get only mason bees but no leafcutters. And we used the same style tubes and boxes! Go figure.
    The little bee returns with evening's gloom,
    To join her comrades in the braided hive... -Tennyson

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Location
    Lebanon, Tennessee, USA
    Posts
    104

    Default Re: My horn faced bees are emerging and mating!

    Hi Omie,

    I want to put out a block or two for solitary bees here in late winter or early spring. Do you have any advice on luring them to a new block and new tubes? I'd prefer to attract native bees rather than purchase any. Thanks.

    Greg in TN

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Location
    Pueblo, Colorado, USA
    Posts
    724

    Default Re: My horn faced bees are emerging and mating!

    The leafcutters around here go through 2 life cycles in one season so it sounds like maybe this is the case in your area also. What I think you got is tubes that leafcutters had nested in but then later hatched out and they didn't return to the same tubes to lay the 2nd generation (which overwinters). The most typical predation on leafcutters (besides woodpeckers) are parasitic wasps. The telltale signs of larvae that have been preyed on by these wasps is a small hole in the side of the cocoon. The cocoons are still intact when a wasp gets to the larvae but it will easily crumble between your fingers if this is what has happened. Sounds like yours just hatched out. I use nesting blocks that I made, but I keep them out all year because after the mason bees lay in them, the leafcutters will come in and lay after them. You have to get all the cocoons out before spring though because the masons emerge first. The difference between mason and leafcutter cocoons is quite obvious so there wont be any mix ups when separating them. I put both types of cocoons out in a little box (with some sawdust for insulation) in the spring. The masons emerge very early and the leafcutters emerge when you have had maybe 2 weeks of 65+ degree weather.

    "In eastern Washington state
    for example, up to 90 percent of the eggs laid in June
    may result in second-generation bees. Of eggs laid
    after mid-July, only 50 percent may develop into
    second-generation bees, and of eggs laid in August,
    few second-generation bees will normally emerge." on leafcutter bees

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Columbia county, New York, USA
    Posts
    1,535

    Default Re: My horn faced bees are emerging and mating!

    Quote Originally Posted by buhbee View Post
    I want to put out a block or two for solitary bees here in late winter or early spring. Do you have any advice on luring them to a new block and new tubes? I'd prefer to attract native bees rather than purchase any. Thanks.
    Greg in TN
    Hi Greg,
    I think the best thing you can do is locate your nesting blocks in a semi-protected place where they get the first morning sun. Mine like it under my kitchen porch roof where the sun hits them in the morning.
    I buy my nesting tubes from Dave at crownbees.com ...a very informative site. The site seems to be down today but I'm sure it will be back up and running shortly. Dave's a good guy, is generous in giving helpful advice, and ships fast. He posts here too. Crownbees also sells a pad that contains a 'lure' scent of some sort. I know nothing about it but you can ask Dave.
    Once you have nesting bees, the tubes and/or boxes or even just the box area will retain a scent of previous nestings and that will be attractive to bees. The bees do a 'cleansing poop' immediately after emerging from their cocoons, and I believe that also adds a scent in the next box area.
    Here's a cool photo I took of one of my horn faced bee females doing her first poop shortly after emerging from her cocoon and mating this past Spring, you can see her two little face 'horns' in the photo as well.
    Click to enlarge:
    HornBeeMating2011_5.jpg

    LOL- I guess you know you are obsessed when you get excited over a bee pooping!
    The little bee returns with evening's gloom,
    To join her comrades in the braided hive... -Tennyson

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Location
    Lebanon, Tennessee, USA
    Posts
    104

    Default Re: My horn faced bees are emerging and mating!

    Quote Originally Posted by Omie View Post
    I buy my nesting tubes from Dave at crownbees.com ...a very informative site.

    LOL- I guess you know you are obsessed when you get excited over a bee pooping!
    Omie, Thank you for the information and tip on crownbees.com. After browsing around Dave's site for an hour or more yesterday, I now have a better idea of how to get started. I have a couple good spots picked out for nest sites and think I will try placing a few tubes at both this spring. Heck, I might even order a few cocoons to get started early. I like the photo you snapped of the little horn-faced bee doing her business, and can hardly wait to get started.

    Thanks again for starting this thread and for your help.

    Greg

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Location
    Fort Worth, TX, USA
    Posts
    1,789

    Default Re: My horn faced bees are emerging and mating!

    I will have to check out Crownbees.com. I saw mason bees in my garden this year (I bent to admire one of my honeybees, then called the gal I got them from because it was blue - what was wrong!)

    Beautiful pics
    Stuck in Texas. Learning Permaculture in drought, guess I will teach permaculture in drought. The bees are still alive.

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Columbia county, New York, USA
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    Default Re: My horn faced bees are emerging and mating!

    Gypsi, that is too funny about the defective blue honeybee!

    The site at crownbees.com is having a few problems right now, but should be functioning again soon. Meanwhile you can email Dave of crownbees directly at: info@crownbees.com
    I find Dave to be very helpful and he sells a good selection of boxes and tubes and liners.
    The little bee returns with evening's gloom,
    To join her comrades in the braided hive... -Tennyson

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Columbia county, New York, USA
    Posts
    1,535

    Default Re: My horn faced bees are emerging and mating!

    Just wanted to clarify that Dave's mason bee site at www.crownbees.com is not having trouble loading- turns out I was using an old bookmark from before he revamped his site, and that's why it wasn't loading. Sorry, crownbees.com and it's newly redesigned site is working just fine! Got my box of new nesting straws and tubes from Dave today in the mail- can't wait for next Spring!
    Last edited by Omie; 11-08-2011 at 07:52 PM.
    The little bee returns with evening's gloom,
    To join her comrades in the braided hive... -Tennyson

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Location
    Woodinville, Washington
    Posts
    34

    Default Re: My horn faced bees are emerging and mating!

    Omie,
    thanks for the kind words. It's important for all of us to be successful raising mason bees. I just attended the Orchard Bee Association's meeing last week. We think that we're about a billion mason bees shy of where we need to be today. ...let alone in 5-7 years if the honey bees continue to have their challenges.

    Why does success matter? In about 5 years my company will be trading free tubes/reeds for excess mason bee cocoons. These cocoons will be used in commercial orchards around where the bees are raised.

    The more we can get people to be successful today, the better off we'll be in the future. Encourage gardeners to try mason bees out!

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Location
    Pepperell, MA.
    Posts
    3,779

    Default Re: My horn faced bees are emerging and mating!

    I just pulled and cleaned my cocoons this morning. Had a fair amount with wasp damage. Two cocoons were full of wasps and it was pretty interesting to open the cocoon and see the very tiny wasps inside. I had a fair amount of cocoons with a single hole and except for the ones filled with wasps, the rest were empty of nearly empty. Took me a while to keep those out of the mix. Anyway, they're all cleaned and in storage. About 50 in all. I also had five unknown cocoons. Those were yellow / green and sort of squarish. I'm holding those separately and I hope to see what emerges in the spring. Time will tell. On top of that, I have about 50 cocoons that I ordered online. About half of those are for a friend that wants to give them a shot. Overall, I'm pretty happy with the year!
    "My wife always wanted girls. Just not thousands and thousands of them......"

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Location
    Woodinville, Washington
    Posts
    34

    Default Re: My second year for Mason bees- 2011

    Ravenseye, hopefully the bees you're getting are eastern bees or hornfaced. Be wary of buying bees that aren't native to your area. Western bees don't survive well in humid environments. ...they might adapt, but in general will be marginal performers at best.

    Sorry to hear about the mono-intrusion. Bringing your tubes just after the spring bee season is the best manner to avoid these guys. ...or have really thick tubes or reeds.

    I believe that one company, ournativebees.com has eastern BOBs, my company (Crownbees) has hornfaced, and I believe that there might be one western bee companies selling eastern bees... though I would be cautious and ask where specifically they were raised. You might be surprised with the results.

    Ethics is important.

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