I thought I knew about Mason Bees and how to cultivate and contribute to their growth in my front and back yards. But after three seasons with nominal success and little or no successive mason bee growth in future years it became time to ask why. Being winter these kinds of thoughts are helpful as it is also the time right before the sowing of seeds for indoor starts. The Farmers’ Almanac correctly predicted this long cold winter but spring will soon be here and as I prepare for more honey bees and construct a new top bar hive I wanted to ensure a successful mason bee season.
There will be lots of big plants arriving in April consisting of perennial fruit trees and bushes as well as more brambles and strawberries. Thus, a workforce that can benefit from the pollen and nectar made available by these plants and aid in their pollination is necessary. Mistakenly I thought I would just add lots more of the wooden mason bee homes depicted below.
Luckily though I was stopped in time by a couple of Paul Wheaton’s Permaculture podcasts where Dave Hunter of CrownBees.com was interviewed about how to raise mason bees, harvest their cocoons and save them for the next year. It was much more than I expected and after I understood the lifecycle of this wonderful bee better I wanted to work more towards their success. I communicated with Dave a few times via e-mail to get over my apprehension to adding to my workload and he did a fine job of that. From his website I ordered up two sets of reeds and sets of Virginia Blue Orchard Mason Bees. I also got a humidifier and some attractants I apply to the homes in the spring.
I highly recommend these podcasts to get your head around the need for better than lazy mason bee maintenance.
Pests and disease are just a couple of the downsides of being lazy about mason bees but the upside of greater care can lead to exponential growth of the number of bees. If things go well I can reap from the initial investment which was something I was hesitant to part with. But I am hoping to add to the life in the yards and to me that life will result in more food. Growing more is like printing more money. Now try to convince me which is the lazy path. More to follow in the spring.
- Washington State University Orchard Mason Bees Fact Sheet
- Paul Wheaton’s Permaculture Podcast