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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Location
    Chester County, PA, USA
    Posts
    6

    Default New to Mason Bees

    New to solitary bees. Our property is a certified wildlife habitat and I've been thinking about taking the next step and keeping bees because of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), and I just like them. My wife isnít so sure about the work involved with honey bees, so Iím thinking about providing nesting tubes for solitary bees like Mason Bees to start.

    Iíve spent a good amount of time at Knox Cellars, Crown Bees, Hutchings Bee Service, and Solitarybee's blog and Iím torn between going with blocks and tubes or trays. I have access to a complete wood shop and Iím contemplating knocking up a couple of each to see which works best. Iíve also collected Teasel stalks and Phragmites from previous years to try reeds as well.

    Any advice for a newbie from any experienced keepers would be appreciated.

    Cheers.
    Jim

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Location
    Woodinville, Washington
    Posts
    34

    Default Re: New to Mason Bees

    Jim,

    I've found that the order of preference by the spring mason bee is reeds, tubes (3-D effect), and then wood trays.

    Why? I believe they find unique outlines easy to find. Our wood trays have a 3-D effect, but it still looks relatively uniform in comparison to reeds.

    Secondly, what is best for the bee? You want something that allows you to harvest your cocoons in the fall. Trays are easiest to take apart, followed by reeds, with our easytears last, though better than the standard tube.

    There might be arguments that an open tray with no holes is easy for you, but it has your bees as unbelievably nonproductive gathering too much mud.

    Cost? least costly are easytears, reeds, and then trays initially. Trays are cheapest over the long run as you're not replacing things each year.

    We do have a comparison that covers a bit more on our website. http://www.crownbees.com/info/straws-and-reed-analysis

    Dave, Crown Bees.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Location
    Chester County, PA, USA
    Posts
    6

    Default Re: New to Mason Bees

    Thanks Dave.

    I know the season's pretty much over, but I think I might put up a can of reeds this weekend and see if I get any summer species stragglers.

    Cheers.
    Jim

  4. #4

    Default Re: New to Mason Bees

    If your just looking to increase the native population might I recommend something as simple as a 7 inch sticks with a 6 inch deep 5/16th diameter hole drilled into them. I duct tape them to branches or barbed wire fencing and they seem to work just fine. The ones not used by mason bees are used by leafcutter bees later in the year. Best of all is the price FREE they can be made from dead brush or tree trimming waste. The most difficult part is having a steady enough hand to drill down the center, larger diameter sticks make it a little easier as they are more forgiving if you haven't drilled exactly straight.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Location
    Woodinville, Washington
    Posts
    34

    Default Re: New to Mason Bees

    JetJockey- This is a great way to start out trapping wild mason bees. A word of caution though. If I gave you an aquarium with fish but didn't tell you to change the water, how long would your fish survive?

    Mason bees with artificial holes that we've supplied are no different. When we add a bunch of holes, mason bees will move in, but after a year or so, those holes become pest-beds and rarely open. You might want to check this out yourself. Spray paint over the mud lightly so that you'll be able to see which opens and doesn't. If you have old holes, more than likely less than 1/2 to 1/3 will open, and even then, you don't know how many carcasses are on the inside of the hole.

    You might say "it's just life and death for the wild bees, so who cares." Ask your local Honey bee owner how they feel about letting their bees forage for themselves. I suggest that every one of them manages their bees.

    Mason bees should also be managed. ...but only if you want to successfully raise them for pollination. If it's a hobby, then the above is useless chatter.

    My intent is to help people raise mason bees successfully so that in 5-10 years, their excess mason bees can be used in local orchard pollination. That's a tall logistical path, but one my company is looking to perform to ensure we have food on our tables later this decade.

    Dave

  6. #6

    Default Re: New to Mason Bees

    Dave- For right now its just a hobby as I only have about 10 filled and 6 or so partially filled trap nest. I am attempting to build up the local population. I only plan on using the nest for one year then after the bees hatch out I shine a flash light down the hole to make sure no one is home then toss them or use them for smoker fuel for my honey bees. I'm actually getting ready to start making nest sticks for next year went up to the hills and got some dead lodge pole pine.

    I think we chated during bee-a-thon I'm the guy who might have some resin bees. I'm not too sure about the exact species the holes are filled with mashed up leaf pulp and bits of saw dust. I cant seem to get a good photo of the bees doing it fast little buggers.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Location
    Pepperell, MA.
    Posts
    3,765

    Default Re: New to Mason Bees

    I agree. Cleaning is part of working with solitary bees. It's one thing to enjoy them if you happen to see them in your garden but if you're going to actively work to attract them and sustain populations, you need to do more.
    "My wife always wanted girls. Just not thousands and thousands of them......"

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