We can all Bee Better with helping the Mason Bees!
Most have heard of the peril facing the honey bee, but keeping honey bee hives isn’t for everyone, especially if you’re allergic.
Did you know one mason bee can pollinate 12 lbs. of cherries versus 60 honey bees for the same amount? #BeeBetter @HelenYoest Click to Tweet!
The mason bee carries pollen on her abdomen hairs which fall off in each flower. And since a mason bee is gathering both pollen and nectar in the same flower visit, pollination happens more readily. You won’t get honey from a mason bee, but you’ll have higher yields!
Keeping honey bee hives is a wonderful thing to do; you can have your flowers pollinated and make honey for your bee’s food source and you and your family. However, if all you need is pollination, look to the mason bee; and don’t worry if you are allergic. The mason bee very rarely sting, and will not send you into anaphylactic shock. Mason bees will only sting if they’re caught by accident, and then it’s their natural defense. Since they don’t have a hive to protect, mason bees tend to be very docile around humans.
Mason bee houses can easily be made from hollowed stems left in the garden over the winter. In fact, the mason bee will move right it. Or you can snip and bundle four-inch sections and hang where you want the bees to reproduce.
Bee Better is an affiliate with Crown Bees. We choose the companies we team with very carefully! Bee Better’s demonstration garden, Helen’s Haven, has several size and types of Crown Bee houses. One good thing, they make great gifts. Even if someone already has a mason bee nesting boxes, another one is always welcomed. You can even purchase complete kits from Crown Bees!
In our demonstration garden, we put out the boxes and local mason bees began to nest. Did you know you can buy mason bees suitable to your ecoregion? When ordering them, make sure the company is reputable, like Crown Bees, so you know you’re getting bees that right mason bee for your ecoregion.
Nests must be periodically cleaned, or else fungus spores and mite populations can increase to the point where the nest can be harmful to the bees. We asked Crown Bees how best to clean their nesting boxes, and here is their response:
If you have signs of chalkbrood you can clean the empty nesting house with a rag and a bleach and water solution.
With regards to cleaning the empty nesting trays, simply brush the nesting tray grooves after harvest of the cocoons.
We do not recommend the use of drilled blocks of wood for mason bee houses because there is no way to clean the nesting holes and pollen mites, chalkbrood (a fungal infection), and monodontomerus parasitic wasps can take over.
Crown Bees also sells mason bees, and they will only send you ones specific to your location. The mason bee, Osmia lignaria, has two subspecies: Osmia lignaria lignaria and Osmia lignaria propinqua. Osmia lignaria lignaria lives east of the Rockies; Osmia lignaria propinqua live west of the Rockies.
Bee Better warns against introducing mason bees outside their native range or you will run the risk of spreading pests or diseases to your local bee populations. Buy from a reputable dealer so you know your getting the right subspecies for your location.
Having housing for the mason bee makes for a Bee Better garden.