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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
This past spring was a bad one for mason bees in the pacific northwest - cold, windy, and rainy all the way through June. Fruit trees finished flowering well in advance of bee emergence, so there was less food available for the bees than other years.

If we face future conditions like that, are there any good ways of augmenting the bees' food supply...to perhaps encourage them to stick around? I don't know if that's a sugar syrup...or a particual kind of early-blooming flower that they feed on, but I welcome all suggestions on it.

Honeybees do it. Bumblebees do it.
Have you ever supplemented feeding for orchard mason bees?
 

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Seattleite... great question.

We also had a cruddy year with raising mason bees in the NW. I have partners between Port Townsend, Vashon, Bremerton, Arlington, Puyallup, and all in between. (600 helpers). In general, our returns were attrocious. In Utah, Idaho, California and Oregon, it was the same issue.

Here's how to change things... Keep some of your bee in the fridge. I'm spreading the release of our bees out over 4 weeks. 1/3 when the weather is about right, then two weeks later, and the last 1/3 two weeks later. Hopefully this spreading out of the emergence will bridge the funky weather we've received.

:)

Dave Hunter
http://www.CrownBees.com
 

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You definitely have to stagger the release of your bees. Here in Orinda, I actually start releasing bees based on when the first trees start developing buds/flowers. This year the cherry plums (which always bloom first) starting blooming at the end of January so I started releasing mason bees in early February. I do this every two weeks up until May when I exhaust my supply to protect against unforeseen weather variations which can wipe out an entire release. This way you can ensure pollination but also in breeding mason bees for next year. Remember, better to release some masons in May (even though there are no fruit trees in bloom down here) that will use other pollination/nectar sources and will thrive in filing up tubes for you. One has to hedge one's bets for both pollination and breeding for the next year's crop.

Anyway, regarding alternative pollination and nectar sources, Pierus Japonica is an excellent early pollen source and rosemary (first the crawling kind and then the upright bush kind) are excellent early nectar sources. The Rosemary will actually continue on blooming into the summer.
 

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I actually store all my bees in my garage refrigerator (in the crisper drawer). There is no difference in storing Jan release bees from May release bees. The key is making sure that they do NOT suffer dehydration. In the crisper drawer I have all bees from previous year stored in a paper bag (not plastic which can promote mold) and about 10 paper towels folded 4 times over and I dampen that paper towel every two weeks.
 

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How many do you have stored?

I'd like to encourage you to think handling the later May bees differently this year. Can you mark the full straws somehow when you place out these latest bees so that you can monitor which are the last to fill? ...and then mark these as May bees?

Reason is, if you can achieve a healthy population of these bees, it really becomes a viable commodity for later crops. worth more than earlier Blue Orchard Bees. there are crops, specifically berry, that would do well with a later bee as long as the temp's aren't in the mid 80's plus.
 

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How many do you have stored?

I'd like to encourage you to think handling the later May bees differently this year. Can you mark the full straws somehow when you place out these latest bees so that you can monitor which are the last to fill? ...and then mark these as May bees?

Reason is, if you can achieve a healthy population of these bees, it really becomes a viable commodity for later crops. worth more than earlier Blue Orchard Bees. there are crops, specifically berry, that would do well with a later bee as long as the temp's aren't in the mid 80's plus.
Almost 95% of my bees are released via loose coccoons. I'm not sure exactly what you are asking me to do. How am I to mark full straws (I release loose coccoons) and how am I exactly to monitor what is being filled?
I'm a little confused so bear with me....what exactly in detail do you mean?
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Because I am always up for experiments . . . .

Woodinvilledave: So would it stand to reason that the very last tubes to be filled in a house would be filled by bees flying the latest in the season? There's no way to tell if those bees hatched later or simply lived longer....you'd just know that they were active at the end of the season, right?


I'm making this up as I go and I am not a scientist, so bear with me. . .

So let's say you monitored your tubes weekly over the course of a season and marked each tube as it was filled. Blue for tubes completed in the first week, green for the second week, etc. As long as you are marking each week differently, then you will know when that tube was completed.

At the end of the season, you could separate the "late" tubes from the "early" tubes. Next year, you put out the "late" tubes as a separate population, and see if their nesting timeline changes.

If one could continue to keep the latest-flying bees from each generation, might it be possible to successfully selectively breed osmia lignaria to fly later in the year...or is it all just a crapshoot with the weather and the pollen supplies every year?

:)

Hey graduate students -- thesis idea!
 

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Dear grad-student Seattleite. That's EXACTLY what I'd do. Nice outline.

In general, the BOB is wonderful for pollinating April/May crops/orchards. To introduce it to a new season has had some discussions on it. We're taking the lazy way out by modifying a bee out of its native window and not finding the local bee that's there anyway.

My opinion, it would work well, a bit of a hassle, but if there were no berry bees available, then it would have to suffice.

More important... we should find the next season bees wherever they are and look to encourage their growth to assist the challenged honey bees.

Lot's of effort to do this, but I'm trying to achieve some of this this summer. I've already ordered my 6mm and 7mm straws. (8mm is the norm.)
 
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