Since we're DIYers at heart this was a difficult decision to make but in the end it's what's best for the orchard :). hehe
Welcome to Mason Bee Manor:
There are so many options out there for homes, if you had wood beams outside you could simply drill some holes into it and wait for the bees to come. You could take a block of un-treated wood and drill some holes in that, or you could buy a little Mason Bee Manor like ours for around $20.
Mason Bee's are different the honey bees, they don't create honey or wax. Every female is a 'Layer', there is no Queen. Mason Bee's are solitary bees, they build their own little nests, although they do like to build them near each other. As with all solitary bees they are gentle and shy, they do still have a stinger but only use it when they are in serious danger. They are not territorial at all, so you don't have to worry about getting too close to their Manor.
Mason bees are the superstars of Pollination. While a honey bee may land on 700 flowers a day, it will only pollinate 30 of them. A mason bee will land on 1500 flowers a day and pollinate almost all of them. Plus Mason Bees thrive in colder weather, so even on cold rainy spring days they're out and about, while the honey bees sit cozy in their hive.
AND Mason Bees are super easy maintenance, once a year you pull out the old paper tubes, put them near their home and put new paper tubes in. It's a tiny amount of work with for a huge payoff.
So I hope you'll consider a little Mason Bee Manor for your backyard!
Here's the little tube we've had sitting in our Fridge for the past couple weeks :)
We bought our little fella's from our local nursery, they weren't hard to find, I only had to call one nursery and they had them. And on the way home we passed another nursery with a sign "Mason Bee's In Stock" so I think they're fairly easy to find this time of year. Although if you already have Mason Bees in your area all you'll need is a home for them. I wasn't sure if we had any in this area so I bought a little 10 pack just in case.
In case you're interested here's a little bit more info about the little fella's:
- are one of many indigenous, solitary bees to the American continent They were pollinating fruit and flowers thousands of years before the first colonists brought the honey bee from Europe.
- They are called "mason" because they construct nests with walled-off chambers for each egg.
- They live for about 4-6 weeks in the late spring and early summer when the flowers and fruit trees start to bloom.
- After emerging from their cocoon and mating, the female goes to work laying eggs and collecting nectar and pollen for the brood .
- They are a very good alternative for a back yard gardener that can do without all the work associated with the honey bee.
- The blooming of the orchards is the sign for the Mason Bees to emerge from their cocoons.
- The male emerges first and the female a couple days later. After mating with the female the male dies and the female gets busy searching for a suitable nest.
- Once found, she starts collecting nectar and pollen to ensure the survival of the brood. A mixture of nectar and pollen is placed at the back of the hole and a female egg is laid on it. Then a wall of mud is constructed to secure the cell.
- She lays 4-5 female eggs in the same manner and in front a couple cells with males.
- After a brief life span of 4-6 weeks during which she lays some 40 eggs the mason bee dies.
- The larva start to feed and by the end of September the final moult has occurred and a complete adult bee rests in its own waterproof cocoon.
- The Mason will thus hibernate the winter away and wait for the coming of spring.