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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Location
    SLC, UT
    Posts
    219

    Default Hard year for our mason bees! But why?

    We are having a tough year for our mason bees for some reason... I'd love any comments from the experts as to any causes or remedies for next year.

    Last year we lost a lot of our cocoons to Mono wasps in early June (they even bored through the thick craft tubes). IIRC we ended up with about 60 or so cocoons after throwing most of them out (candled with a flash light to see the wasp larvae). This year I supplemented my remaining cocoons with an order of 20 and 30 cocoons from one of the well respected suppliers in order to build the population back up. We have 2 bee homes and my cocoons went in the top house and the 'replacement' cocoons went in the bottom.

    Of my original cocoons most of them hatched but something is wiping them out in a hurry. All were placed out about 3-5 weeks ago and only 2 femalesremain. Last week there were 11. I found one dead on the ground, and another headless in the box. I haven't seen any birds around the boxes, and both our honeybee hives are thriving so far with no evidence of pesticide poisoning.

    Even stranger, of the 'replacement cocoons' most never hatched. All were wintered together in my fridge in 2 separate boxes but the same environment.

    I don't understand what happened this year and likely never will, but it's somewhat frustrating after doing everything by the book. Last year we had a fantastic year until the Mono hit. This year who knows? Maybe they had a poor pollen resource and ran out of fat reserves?

    Here are a few photos. Note the queens that I cut out of the cocoons, one very dark and one very light.

    mason01.jpg

    mason02.jpg

    mason03.jpg
    Last edited by kincade; 05-04-2012 at 09:44 AM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Location
    Pueblo, Colorado, USA
    Posts
    696

    Default Re: Hard year for our mason bees! But why?

    Aye rough year here too. Last year by this time I had probably 1000 mason cocoons, this year, i probably have 50 i would estimate. The mild winter with the intermittent hard freezes are what whacked ours I would believe. It's actually getting late for mason bees in their life cycle, I personally am not going to sell any this year and keep the cocoons for next year. SLC and where I live have really similiar climates so I would say that the weird winter might be the cause but you mention queens... do you mean females? anyway i summer/winter mine outside in a shed where predatory wasps are dealt with in a unique way but I don't understand why yours would not hatch unless there was excess moisture in your fridge or something weird happened to them in cold storage.
    Zone 5a @ 4700 ft. High Desert
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  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Location
    SLC, UT
    Posts
    219

    Default Re: Hard year for our mason bees! But why?

    Rwurster, yes, I meant females. Post corrected.

    Thanks for your input. Did you overwinter your cocoons outside? I left mine in a fridge, 36*, in a small humidity controlled drawer. No power losses and nothing out of the ordinary at all. Do you think excessive humidity could cause them to not emerge? I stored my cocoons in this:

    http://www.crownbees.com/crown-bees/...idity-chamber/

    I didn't use that last year, but I wouldn't think a slight bit of humidity would hurt the cocoons as long as it was not excessive.

    I'd be interested to hear how you deal with with predatory wasps.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Location
    Seattle, WA
    Posts
    43

    Default Re: Hard year for our mason bees! But why?

    They seem pretty tolerant of high humidity, at least for a while. I had mine in the crisper and actually found a layer of mould growing on them. Yet my hatch rate was as good as ever (close to 90%).

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Location
    Stromness, Scotland
    Posts
    124

    Default Re: Hard year for our mason bees! But why?

    Don't forget that low level neonicotinoid pesticide damage usually doesn't show any immediate symptoms. If the bees have collected contaminated pollen and reared their larvae on it these larve will have a compromised immune system and probably some damage to the central nervous system which makes them helpless against varroa and other parasites.

    In honeybees it has been observed that in areas with sublethal level of neonicotinoid poisoning colonies keep replacing their queens continuously as the queen larvae cannot fully develop in presence of these toxins - the beekeeper observes continuous supercedure and doesn't get to harvest much honey.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Location
    SLC, UT
    Posts
    219

    Default Re: Hard year for our mason bees! But why?

    CPM, never found mold on mine. Utah is a desert so the humidity is exceptionally low here. I was hoping the humidity tray would help with that.

    Strom, thanks for the observation. I actually wondered about neo pesticides but I'm not sure anyone around here uses anything like that. It's mostly lawn care products and such (and they DO use a ton of these). However, your post is a bit confusing to me. I think you have Mason bees confused with Honeybees as to my knowledge varroa are not an issue with Mason bees (no brood cycle, no larvae for 28 days, etc). But I can see how any kind of poisoning would render the larvae much worse off.

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