If you have a native population of masons, you can just place out nesters and attract them to your nests. I suggest you use the nesting tubes as opposed to wooden blocks. The nesting tubes provide a more sanitary nesting place since you can change out the paper liners each year. Wooden nesting holes tend to build-up residues over the seasons and harbor pathogens.
NC may or may not have a large enough native population of masons for you to be successful. I keep two species of masons, Osmia Lignaria and Osmia Cornifrons and both do well in N Alabama. I am a retailer for Knox Cellars and have shipped bee cocoons to several customers in NC. Last spring I shipped several hundred cocoons to the University of Arkansas and to Cornell University. They are being more widely studied now by the universities and encouraged as alternative pollinators. They are easy to keep and do not cost much. They require no medications and the nesters are not expensive. All you need is some early blooming trees (fruit trees etc) so they can gather nectar and pollen to provision the nest. The mason bees usually emerge in my climate in mid to late March so you will need some trees that are in bloom at that time.
I do have some occupied nesting tubes here in the uk , the bees come to them by themselves.
I just supply more empty/new tubes every year and put them in some empty cut plastic bottles to give the tubes some protection from the weather (so there is no need to order the thick and heavy kit - just order the replacement tubes!
BeeAware, are your Osmia Lignaria's from Alabama or did you bring them in? Are native Osmia "hard" to find where you are?
Native Osmia are few in Alabama. I originally brought them here from the west coast. I have been propagating them now for several generations and a few other local folks are as well. This means the native population should be on the increase. I also have some Osmia Cornifrons which seem to tolerate the heat and humid conditions a little better. In our neighboring state of Mississippi, Dr. Sampson at the bee lab there has been propogating another Osmia species for the purpose of pollinating blueberries. I have been told that he is now ready to release some of these to growers. Hopefully, we will see the population increasing each year. Many of the "experts" in the bee world have told me that there is no longer a significant difference in the west coast Osmia Lignaria and the east coast Osmia. This is due to the cross country shipping of the bees for several years. In fact, the only difference I ever found between the two was that one had a slightly longer antenae.
Many of the "experts" in the bee world have told me that there is no longer a significant difference in the west coast Osmia Lignaria and the east coast Osmia.
Thats very interesting. We are going to try attract and propagate some native Osima's here. If we don't get many, I may look into buying some in a year or two. I would be very interested in learning more about Dr. Sampson's work. Does he have a website? I'll hit google as well.
I'm not sure if Dr. Sampson has a personal site or not. He works at the USDA Bee Lab in Poplarville, MS. I found an email link to him on the Pollinator Paradise website from Dr. Stricklen.
I have been told that Dr. Sampson released a few of the Osmia species to the area blueberry growers for the first time this year. I hope to get some myself in the near future. If you don't get a good population of Osmia from the feral bees, let me know and I can get you some cocoons for Osmia Lignaria or Osmia Cornifrons.