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Mason Bee Noob

6411 Views 10 Replies 7 Participants Last post by  Omie
Hi everyone!

I am new to mason bee keeping. I ordered 10 cocoons from BeeDiverse which are currently chilling in the crisper of my fridge (with a moist paper towel I change out every other day).

I hung my "Plain Jane" bee house from today in the hopes of seeing some wild mason/leafcutter bees move in. In previous years they have made homes inside the siding of my house, so I am hoping they are still around (though I did not see any last year). The house is situated next to a gutter pipe which will shield it from wind, on a south-facing wall which gets sun for most of the day if the sun graces us with an appearance at all. The worst of the rainy season is behind us but precipitation is an inevitability until July in my area.

I'm waiting for the right time to put my purchased bees outside. I live in the northernmost part of California. There is still the possibility of a frost so I'm reluctant to put them out now, but there are cherry blossoms starting to bloom in the area (though none yet on our street). I know there are no set-in-stone rules about timing mason bee emergence but I am feeling a bit anxious about getting it exactly right.

The owner of BeeDiverse said I could go ahead and put the bees outside now and let them decide when to emerge, but I worry about them sitting outside too long in their cocoons, even within their tubes they are not 100% safe from wasps, rodents and cold.

Any advice for a newbie is appreciated. How long might it take from putting them outside to seeing them emerge?

How late in the season can I order more cocoons in case these don't survive?
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They are native. You don't need to worry about them except in extreme situations. I put mine out about a month before I want them for my fruit trees.
If cherries are starting to bloom (they love cherries) then it is time to put them out. It takes at least 3 days of 50 degrees for them to emerge. They will be fine!
You do need to protect those cocoons, did they not come in a suitable package? Some houses come with "nurseries", anything with a hole you can fill with some paper should keep out most nasties, most problems come before winter, not after. Birds do like them though. If those tubes in your house are loose, the birds may pick them out and destroy them. I just cleaned my block last week, already had a male hatched out. Keeping them in the fridge or they'd be hatching now. Crazy warm here, honeybees have been gathering pollen like crazy for the last 12 days. Haven't even seen frost since mid Dec.
So are these just loose cocoons? My first year I bought bees, but they came in tubes just as they were laid. The tubes of cocoons were in a container with other empty tubes. I just had to take the lid off and put it out.

Last year I kept them in the refrigerator until mid March. They started hatching out in mid April. My peaches started blooming on April 10th last year and cherries started about a week later.

This year I kept them in a shed until our outside temperatures started getting into the single digits and then put them into a refrigerator that we have in our garage. I will take them out between the first and middle of March this year.
Yes, loose cocoons from BeeDiverse. They arrived in a little pill bottle which they can emerge from as there is a hole in the lid, but the tubes of my bee house come in the form of a plastic block with lots of appropriately sized holes. The seller recommends putting a cocoon in it's own tube and tipping the house back gently so they slide to the back.

There is beautiful weather here today but rain due for the rest of the week. I think I will give it a couple more weeks.
Crazy warm here, honeybees have been gathering pollen like crazy for the last 12 days. Haven't even seen frost since mid Dec.
Ooh, I'm jealous of your good weather! I did see one unidentified bee yesterday as I hung the house but looking around the neighborhood I see lots of buds but only the occasional bloom. Several blocks north the cherry blossoms are going crazy though.
If cherries are blooming, put the bees out, right away. (My marker here in Seattle is ornamental plum trees. When they bloom, the cherries are about two weeks behind.) Chilly rainy weather does not bother mason bees, that's why Washington State and British Columbia are where the be suppliers are based.

For future years, I wouldn't stress about putting them out too early. They're native bees and are built to withstand winters (they do in the wild.) While I'm in a different climate, but I put mine out in mid-February last year, and saw no activity at all until the first week in April when the cherries started to bloom. I was convinced that they were all dead, and then the very next week they were all out and buzzing around. It's better to put them a couple of weeks too early than a couple of weeks too late.

If you intend to harvest them at the end of the season to clean and store loose individual coccoons in the fridge all winter, I'd suggest cutting back on the damp paper towel, which could invite mold or fungus issues. The crisper drawer is already designed to be the most humid place in the fridge so your bees should be fine.

PS: Save the beediverse prescription vial thing - it's a good emergence container for next spring.
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Thank you for the response!

I took a look around the neighborhood; we have lots of ornamental cherry trees which flower but do not bear fruit and while they are beautiful colors, the buds themselves have not opened and many of them are still producing what will eventually become buds, not yet flowers. I did not observe any other bee species at all today though it was warm and sunny.

Also, our local temperatures are not yet high enough during the day to indicate that the bees would naturally emerge (I just found this out from another mason bee enthusiast. I have been told 50 degrees and 58 degrees from different sources are the temps that will cause the bees to emerge and allow them to survive). Our temps are still reliably in the 40's and will be for a few more weeks. I'm hoping for an early spring and will keep a close watch on the local flowers.

It sounds like I could put them out now but not expect them to emerge for a few weeks yet. My bees came from Washington where I suspect the weather is very similar. I am leaving town next weekend and it's raining all week so I think I'm going to wait for the following weekend so I don't miss the action but will keep a close watch on the local blooms in the meantime.
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For info just added my thoughts/experience to the timing issue here (a similar question was posed). I learnt the hard way at the start of 2008 :( :

To summarize, I think a good guide to action is to check that other bees and insects and bees (not necessarily bumble-bees) are active and numerous on the open blossoms, otherwise 'imported' bees who haven't orientated themselves in established nesting blocks risk running out of nectar/energy before they find their way back to your block.

Good luck
Today (March 16) was a big day here in my house (near Albany NY).
Today the crocuses bloomed in my yard- the first blooms of the year! Finally. And a beautiful sunny day 55F! 60 mason bee cocoons arrived today! :p All neatly taped in their original cardboard nesting tubes, with arrows showing which end the bees will emerge from.

I have the nesting boxes all ready, but I'm going to wait another couple of weeks because of two factors:
1) we are a long way from having fruit trees blooming I said all I'm seeing is a few measley crocuses. Not much for bees to eat and I'm not seeing any other flying insects out much yet either.
2) we are now due for 6 days in the 50'sF and sunny...but that will be followed by another week or two of highs only in the 30's and 40's. After that cold snap the 50's will become the norm.

I don't want my bees to hatch out and have to face cold and nothing to eat.
So I put them safely in the veggie drawer of the fridge to keep them from getting activated yet.
Must be patient just a couple weeks or so longer. :banana:
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