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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Location
    Oconee, Illinois
    Posts
    88

    Default Native bee advice

    Walked into my barn today and there were bees all over a pile of oak firewood that I had thrown in there to stay dry and season. At first I thought my bees were attracted to the wood for some weird reason until I got closer and seen that they were actually going in and out of small holes and crevices in the wood. Then it dawned on me that they were a native bee of some kind. They are very close to looking like a honey bee except they are more of earthy brown fuzz with darker to black abdomens. I tried for a pic but they are very active. I haven't found a good internet pic to compare them to but I'd like to know what I got and how I can help them. Some articles I found mentioned homemade nest cavities by drilling holes in oak logs for them to use. I'm trying to find out about their life cycle and stuff. Like will they occupy the wood from here on out or are they just a seasonal thing and then I can have my wood pile back, it's my backyard fire wood pile but I'll sacrifice it for them. I actually feel kind of blessed in a sense that I've got them so I want to do right by them. So looking for any kind of guidance here. Thanks.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    Location
    Rader, Greene County, Tennessee, USA
    Posts
    9,733

    Default Re: Native bee advice

    If the bees were cutting holes in the wood, then carpenter bees come to mind, but they are bigger than honey bees. Have you considered orchard mason bees? http://msue.anr.msu.edu/news/mason_a...ter_beekeeping

    Perhaps this page may be useful to you ...
    http://bugguide.net/node/view/475348

    There also are a couple of listings there for 'mimics' which look like bees but are really flies.
    Graham
    USDA Zone 7A Elevation 1400 ft

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Location
    Oconee, Illinois
    Posts
    88

    Default Re: Native bee advice

    Looks like they have a black thorax with brown fuzz and a black abdomen and they are nesting in oak logs. Best I description I got.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Location
    Oconee, Illinois
    Posts
    88

    Default Re: Native bee advice

    Yes they are about the same size of a honey bee. We also have the wood boring bees that are about the size of bumble bees.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2017
    Location
    drakesville, iowa
    Posts
    2

    Default Re: Native bee advice

    Are they Mason bees?

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Location
    Oconee, Illinois
    Posts
    88

    Default Re: Native bee advice

    That's my conclusion, yes it's a type of mason bee. Does anybody know how I can handle this. Will the bees occupy this wood from now on. Or will they be done with theses logs as a nest and then I can use the firewood. Or if I want to keep the bees then I have to forfeit ever using this wood in a fire pit. Are they laying the eggs now that will be cocoons through the winter inside the wood and then reemerge next spring?

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Location
    Oconee, Illinois
    Posts
    88

    Default Re: Native bee advice

    Kind of answering my own questions but maybe it will help somebody else what I'm finding out. My concern was about using the firewood that the mason bees are occupying. Seems that the mason bees make one generation per year. I conclude that my firewood is being filled eggs that will pupate over next winter and emerge once approx. 50 degrees arrives again. So a cold season is mandatory for their life cycle. So to answer my own initial concern about using the firewood they have inhabited, no the wood will not be available to me now if I want to spare the mason bee eggs that are being laid in the holes. Best guess is spare any wood that may have a mud filled cap hole in it to spare any bees inside. I haven't found an exact picture that represents them but feel safe to say they are a type of mason bee. The following link is where I finally found a good description of their life cycle.
    http://extension.psu.edu/lawrence/ne...ason-bee-house

    Hope I've been helpful to somebody else. So now I plan on getting some bee houses out for them next spring to trade for my firewood back.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2016
    Location
    Honey Brook, PA, USA
    Posts
    201

    Default Re: Native bee advice

    If they have filled the holes with mud then they are most likely mason bees (though not very flattering to the bee), in motion around the nest they remind me of a cross between a bee and a fly. Look like a bee but very active and flighty. Yes, they have one generation per year and the eggs would be being laid in those holes. As far as I am aware, mason bees do not create their own holes, but use existing holes.

    In my experience, reuse of holes is rare (which I believe is a way to escape pests), so if you provide a nearby nest material (see below) next spring (about April 1st, but may vary in your area), the bees will likely start using that material and you can reclaim your firewood for next year (with only a small amount of bees sacrificed).

    Individual female mason bee is a better pollinator than a individual honeybee, however since there are so many more honeybees in a hive, the honeybee hive out pollinates the mason bee. I also believe mason bees do not fly as far as a honeybee and once they have established the area where they are nesting (for that year) cannot be moved. They tend to prefer flowers in the 'rose' family (most fruit trees, etc.).

    There are several ways you can create nesting material for the bees:
    drill holes (with a fairly long shank) of 5/16" diameter. 2x4 will work, but 2x6 is much better.
    Buy cardboard tubes* and place them in PVC pipe or a bucket (on its side).
    You can also buy mason bee nests, but I think that is a very expensive way to go.
    I've also taken staghorn sumac from last years growth (if thick enough) and cut to length and drilled holes (easy as the sumac branches have a large center pith (must drill slowly).

    *My backyard fruit growing club in Lancaster PA, buys tubes in bulk to keep the cost down, (still about $10 for 100 tubes).

    They do have certain pests that do attack them, Once you've moved them to a more portable form of nest, you may want to remove them go a location in accessible* to a wasp that creates a hole in the side of the tubes and lays eggs that parasitize the bees. I've also had problems with pollen mites.

    *The wasps tend to come out in June, so remove the nests at the end of May. My bees go in my basement, which only has one window, so any emerging wasps tend to fly towards that light and then get captured by spiders. Around December I move them to my unheated garage, so they can get the cold they need.

    There are about 3 good books on managing orchard mason bees (I'd suggest Amazon to find what's available).

    Good luck!!!

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2016
    Location
    Honey Brook, PA, USA
    Posts
    201

    Default Re: Native bee advice

    Quote Originally Posted by crmauch View Post
    ... Around December I move them to my unheated garage, so they can get the cold they need.
    I had something incorrect. I move them September (sometimes October) to my garage - not December.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2017
    Location
    Monticello, Georgia, USA
    Posts
    2

    Default Re: Native bee advice

    If you want to use the firewood. You can harvest the cocoons, and store them in your fridge over winter. Then set up a mason bee nester like this. a great addition to your garden and don't require near the work as honey bees. Native bees are extremely good pollinators.

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