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With all the seed catalogs coming to us now days I’m noticing many ads for “MASON BEES” usually intimating that “Honey Bees are becoming scarce” and “Mason Bees will do a better job of pollinating your garden”. Ummm, is that true. I doubt it.
With due credit to Mason Bees, I tend to think a hive of Honey Bees in the neighborhood is far superior.
There is indeed a myopic, unwarranted, ridicules fear of Honey Bees. I’ve kept Bees for all my life and know nothing can bee further from the truth.
Seen anything in the media lately pushing the truth about Honey Bees, our most important KEYSTONE CREATURE ?

Mark
 

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If the pollination race were 1 on 1, the Mason bee would probably be recognized as the better pollinator. However, a colony of honey bees has a tremendous population advantage over Mason bees, causing the honey bees to be the more effective pollinator.

I'm happy to have both honey bees and various kinds of solitary bees pollinating my wild blueberries. Hey, even some kinds of ants are reported to be pollinators.

I don't worry too much about the catalog writers - they are trying to sell stuff, which is their job after all.
 

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There are many mason bee vendors who really know nothing about the bees and are looking to make a quick buck. It is all about marketing, and unfortunately many false claims are made. The primary mason bees sold in the U.S. are the blue orchard bee, Osmia lignaria, and the hornfaced bee, Osmia cornifrons, which is a Japanese species. Both of the species are active in the spring and are only around long enough to pollinate fruit trees. However, many people that sell these bees will tell you they pollinate strawberries, squash, raspberries, and even grapes, which of course are wind pollinated.

Another mason bee that has been marketed in the last couple of years is Osmia californica. It is advertised as a summer mason bee. The problem is, it won't touch the blossoms in your garden since it is not interested in them. If you happen to grow arrowleaf balsamroot then this bee will do a good job pollinating the flowers for you.

I've never seen an advertisement for a mason bee pollinator of blueberries but there are probably some out there.

Honey bees have been characterized in the media as exotic species. Until recently, many Americans had no idea that honey bees were not native to North America. Many mason bee suppliers have focused on this fact and now describe honey bees with terms like "introduced", "non-native", "European" , "foreign", etc. implying that they don't fit into the American ecosystem.

Dale
 

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I have 10 hives of honey bees in my small orchard. They have to fly around my fruit trees to get out....but they do. I rarely could see more than 10 honey bees (usually 0-2) on a cherry tree in full bloom even though the place roars with bees in flight. I noticed that my fruit tree pollination was from native mason bees and bumble bees. So I now also raise mason bees.

I would probably do better with honey bees if I moved them out until the fruit trees started to bloom and then move them back in, but mason bees are easier and I get plenty of fruit.
 

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I would never buy mason bees. There are many different types of mason bees in different parts of the U.S.
I would, however, enjoy making/providing housing for whatever mason bees occur naturally in my area.
Some people simply cannot keep honeybees, and mason bees would be cool for them to house. The ad doesn't bother me. All bees are good. :)
 

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Let's not panic. Mason bees will not replace honeybees. The mason bees have been here all along. I posted a video on how to make a mason bee nest block out of scrap you have laying around. What a great project for the whole family. Just make the box and put it up... see if you get any tenants. They are fun to watch and it is true they love cherry blossoms.
 

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I have more mason bees in my area than I know what to do with. That's with at times 16 hives/nucs in the small back yard. They are on all flowers, many the honey bees don't touch, like petunias. I am sure some of them are actually bumble bees.

I hate the mason bees, they eat into the wood under my patio and my workshop. I try to keep them down using my racketball racket. It knocks the snot out of them. Sometimes they will go 10 - 15 feet. But even then you have to stomp on them or they will revive and high tail it back home......only to come back again.

My mom lives in Calhoun County, SC. I see very few bees there. In fact it's rare to see them. But they mason bees are everywhere. If it wasn't for the mason bees nothing would get pollinated in her garden and flower beds. My sister lives in Orangeburg, SC and I never see honey bees there either. But when the figs are getting ripe the mason/bumble bees are every where on open figs. Now if there were honey bees in the area they would bee there for the sweet fig juice/nectar.

Again on the downside, my dad built a shed on the side of his metal workshop many years ago. He used untreated wood. The bees have almost eaten completely through all of the supports which are 2X4s. If I can't get down to her this summer and tear down and replace with treated lumber I doubt it will last another year in places. I have seen mason bee traps advertised on Beesource. They are expensive but seem to be very affective. Might have to get one for her shed if I can't rework the shed this year.

A fews back I was going to use some of the lumber under the shed. Much of it was okay, but some was partially eaten up by the mason bees and others were devastated from the mason bees. It was amazing how far the bees would burrow through the middle of the 2X4s!! On several occasions I kept cutting the board every 4 to 6 inches and the tunnels would go for 2 to 3 feet. In some places the tunnels crossed. I guess from different bees.
 

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I have more mason bees in my area than I know what to do with. That's with at times 16 hives/nucs in the small back yard. They are on all flowers, many the honey bees don't touch, like petunias. I am sure some of them are actually bumble bees.

I hate the mason bees, they eat into the wood under my patio and my workshop. I try to keep them down using my racketball racket. It knocks the snot out of them. Sometimes they will go 10 - 15 feet. But even then you have to stomp on them or they will revive and high tail it back home......only to come back again.

My mom lives in Calhoun County, SC. I see very few bees there. In fact it's rare to see them. But they mason bees are everywhere. If it wasn't for the mason bees nothing would get pollinated in her garden and flower beds. My sister lives in Orangeburg, SC and I never see honey bees there either. But when the figs are getting ripe the mason/bumble bees are every where on open figs. Now if there were honey bees in the area they would bee there for the sweet fig juice/nectar.

Again on the downside, my dad built a shed on the side of his metal workshop many years ago. He used untreated wood. The bees have almost eaten completely through all of the supports which are 2X4s. If I can't get down to her this summer and tear down and replace with treated lumber I doubt it will last another year in places. I have seen mason bee traps advertised on Beesource. They are expensive but seem to be very affective. Might have to get one for her shed if I can't rework the shed this year.

A fews back I was going to use some of the lumber under the shed. Much of it was okay, but some was partially eaten up by the mason bees and others were devastated from the mason bees. It was amazing how far the bees would burrow through the middle of the 2X4s!! On several occasions I kept cutting the board every 4 to 6 inches and the tunnels would go for 2 to 3 feet. In some places the tunnels crossed. I guess from different bees.
USCBeeMan, I think you might have your native bees mixed up. Orchard Mason Bees (or blue orchard bees for those on the east coast) DO NOT eat holes in wood. They nest in existing holes. Naturally, these holes would be created by woodpeckers. I have more than 6,000 orchard mason bees in my colony on the side of my cedar sided house and I can tell you with absolute assurance that I have never seen one nibble on a piece of wood.
I believe what has been troubling you are carpenter bees.
http://www.carpenterbees.com/
~Reid
 

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Well, I guess I am showing my ignorance. I though mason and carpenter bees were one and the same. You know, like a mason who builds like a carpenter.

I am sure I have read the difference sometime in the past but it just didn't sink in my thick head or got pushed out by some newer information. :doh:
 

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Discussion Starter #11
WOW
Kudos to all you great beekeepers and all your infomative comments.
Yeah I like all the polinators too. I am just getting tired of all the mistruths in advertising.
Mark
 

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First off, honey bees are not a keystone species in North America. They can't be -- they're introduced.

Then, don't fault most people for not wanting to keep honey bees. For a nonbeekeeper, opening a hive of thousands of stinging insects can be very intimidating. Many folks tell me they want to keep bees to "help pollinators" and to "preserve bees." I generally recommend mason bees or leafcutter bees or other native bees for those people. They really do not want the time or effort of managing honey bee colonies, and putting up nesting blocks or shelters for native pollinators can help conserve native bees and meet the goals of the people who want to help bees.

Think of it like people interested in birds -- many people put up a birdhouse or birdhouses, but very few raise birds intensively.
 

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I don't think most people were that intimidated by honey bees until all of the media bliztes and "Killer Bee" movies came out in the 80's. :(

I think most people were inquisitive of honey bees and their hives. Some I am sure, put them in the same category as wasp nests filled with wasps. As a kid, I use to pester wasp nests under the eaves of a house or barn with a cane pole. :D Got stung enough that I realize my fun was not as much enjoyment as the stings. :lookout:

I have seen wasp nests in SC on branches of trees or stumps close to the water in swamps/rivers that could reach 3 feet across. Big red wasps. Didn't want to mess with them! :no:
 

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For someone who just wants a few pollinators around the mason bee is great. And so far no jerks have made up stupid, self serving laws to regulate them. You don't have to register them or have them inspected. Just put up the habitat and let them be.
 

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Maybe people weren't all that intimidated by having honey bees around, but actually opening a hive and managing a hive is a different matter. Most people dislike being stung. Go to a park in the fall anywhere in the country, and observe how people react to the simple presence of yellowjackets. If you're accustomed to honeybees, they certainly don't seem intimidating, but the would be for most people.

I have a friend who has a leopard as a pet, lets his "kitty" wander freely in his house. He considers that normal and wonders how anyone could object to such an arrangement.
 

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A friend of mine just found this thread and alerted me to it.

Not all "mason bee purveyors" are run the same way. My company, Crown Bees, is an ethical company built to share only exact science and observations. Yes, we are a company that is supposed to bring in a profit, so we do sell bees, nesting material, houses, etc. HOWEVER, our purpose is to help people learn to raise mason bees successfully so that they can share their excess bees with friends/families.

There is more than one bee in the world. The honey bee is a wonderful and vital pollinator. Because they are social (the hive is active year round) and easily transported, they are an obvious choice for crops/orchards needing pollination. The honey bee is also going through some pretty wicked challenges right now. Mites, pesticides, CCD, virus, etc. Some key chemicals to combat mites are being pulled from the shelves... it's not a pretty world for the honey bee or their owners.

Solitary bees, though limited in availability, limited to a small flight radius, and don't provide honey, are excellent pollinators. Crown Bees is teaming with the science communities to help the backyard gardeners learn more about native solitary bees around them. There are 130+ species in north america. The spring bees (blue orchard and hornfaced) are excellent for orchards. The aglaia, (in Oregon & California) are excellent for berries. The leafcutters are excellent for crops and gardens. The californica is useless for most food crops unless you're a daisy seed grower. Each bee has their purpose and presence in our pollination needs.

I welcome all opinions, but do get frustrated that there's only one bee in the world. Open your eyes to your yard. If you don't have bees buzzing, then add more pollen/nectar sources. Learn to identify more than just the bumble or honey bees.

Big picture... from the scientists that i collaborate with, orchards in about 5 years may not have all of the hives they need to pollinate. Thus, a hundred acre orchard might only have 60 hives instead of 100. Solitary bees will have to fill in that gap. I'm not saying they're superior, I'm saying they will be necessary. Our goal is to help the backyard gardeners be so successful that their excess bees will be rounded up and used in regional orchards. The excess bees of Chicago & Detroit will head towards Wisconsin orchards. It's that serious.

I hope this helps you understand that not all companies are built the same. Ethics are important. Your success is equally important. The food chain is a complex pollination process that MUST have alternative solutions. I'm working on Plan Bee right now.
 
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