Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Bee-utiful Bee Home

         I received an email from a reader asking how our Mason Bees from last year are doing . . . well they're all dead! But that's a good thing. They've completed their life cycle . . . laid tons of eggs and died!! I had you going though didn't I?

         Our Mason Bees did an amazing job this year! We have a huge amount of apples and more then our fair share of pears. I'm giving full credit to our hard working Mason Bees, they took our fruit trees from flowers, to fruit:
         It was really cool to watch them work, I would spend a few minutes everyday on the back porch watching them fly in and fly out. Lee was so curious one day he popped a ladder up there to get a closer look! Mason Bees are solitary so they don't protect their hive and are commonly referred to as the "gentle bee". They do have the ability to sting but rarely do, Lee was right in front of their hive pulling tubes out and replacing them with new ones and he wasn't even close to stung! They just few right by him and into their home.

How Mason Bees help and why we need them:
         Mason Bees pollinate at an amazing rate thanks to their fuzzy bellies. Regular Honey Bees operate at a 10% efficiency rate of spreading pollen . . . Mason Bees efficiency rate of pollination is over 90%! A single female can land on 2000 blossoms a day!
Our tiny little apple tree is overloaded with apples and our pear tree (which produced no pears last year) has well over 30 this year!
        Mason bees have become more important in recent years due to many factors, the main one being something called "Colony Collapse Disorder" a phenomenon in which worker bees from a bee hive or bee colony abruptly disappear. CCD had a dramatic increase in 2006 and has been attributed to everything from mites to pesticides. Without bees to pollinate our crops we'll see a dramatic decrease in food being harvested. For example, Bees are the main pollinator of Almond crops in California.  In 2000 the crop value was at 15 billion, in 2006 (after CCD) the crop value dropped to 1.5 billion.
We Need Bees! 

         Mason Bees are seriously easy to take care of, really they're no work at all . . . once a year you replace the old cardboard tubes with new ones! No bee suits, no smoke! You don't even need the cardboard tubes. You could just drill holes in wood and they can use that, we choose to use inexpensive cardboard tubes ($10 lasts us 3 years) we just replace them each year. Keeping the hive a bit cleaner then a hive with no cardboard tubes.
You get 4-6 weeks of bee activity starting about half way through March and ending around the beginning of May. Then they die and their eggs hatch and come out next spring!
Mason bees are definitely increasing in popularity, in fact they do the best in Suburban communities where there are lots of flowers and fruit trees!

My hope is that one day you'll see mason bee homes 

in yards as frequently as you see bird feeders! 

 

28 comments:

  1. This is so interesting! I had never heard of Mason bees.

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  2. We keep honey bee hives, it is fascinating and so important to have them!

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  3. Thanks so much for answering my question! We have wanted bees for avlong time, but I am allergic - so next Spring we'll be getting Mason Bees. So still, no honey, but a properly pollinated & beautiful garden!

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  4. This was so interesting. They seem like they would be very easy to keep. And, neighborhood friendly.

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  5. Thanks so much for sharing this! I had not heard of Mason bees until your post.

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  6. What a great post! I've never heard of these bees before, but have been considering planting some fruit trees in our yard. Fantastic info!

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  7. This was a wonderful post! I never knew so much about these bees. I just might have to try it by my apple trees!

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  8. Nice post about the bees. I have noticed in the past year that there is an increasing number of articles about the bee population declining. I had not heard of Mason bees until a few months ago. It was very interesting to read your post about them. I learned a lot. Thank you.

    Lori

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  9. Hi Ashli - you were my first bit of knowledge about Mason bees! Because I have a lot of land (6+ acres), I decided to go with two full beehives of honeybees. They buzz around to all of my flowers (& veggies & trees) and I love seeing them at work in my yard (lucky my neighbors are all avid gardeners and agree).

    Here are my two posts on my not-uneventful start with bees:

    http://www.hardlyhousewives.com/2012/05/oh-bee-have.html
    http://www.hardlyhousewives.com/2012/06/its-bee-again.html

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    1. I should mention that I decided to go with bees because I've learned a lot about colony collapse disorder and the recent "bee blights" and am hoping I can do my part by keeping my own bees here.

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  10. Do you buy your bees online or are the available at local stores? I'm always trying to get my fig tree and garden to produce more fruit so maybe bees could be the answer!

    ~Kendra
    bkdarr.blogspot.com

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    1. Hi Kendra,
      We bought our first batch at our local nursery (check around March), but you can also buy them online. They come in a little box and are kept in the fridge until you need them :) kind of freaked me out but they were super easy! And now we have Tons of bees just from that one little package!

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    2. Thanks! I'm going to put a reminder in my calendar to go look at Molbak's for bees next year. If you are ever down in the Seattle area you should check out Molbak's its a cute and fun garden store to browse located in Woodinville, WA.

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  12. Now I will be humming "let me tell you bout the birds and the bees and the flowers and the trees" all evening long :-)
    Thank you for your blog which I always leave in a happy mood (ok, and sometimes hungry and sometimes with a bad conscience seeing my mess)

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  13. wow, never heard of them - where did u buy them and the supplies? hubby is highly allergic to bee stings so this is what we would need. thanks so much!

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  14. I had no idea! This is great info...where did you get your from?

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    1. Scratch the last question. I found your link!

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  15. I see those little homes everywhere and I didn't know what they were for. Birds certainly can't fit in there??? I understand now and want to take part.

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  16. I found your post so informative and fascinating! Thank you for sharing this with us!!

    xo-Lisa

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  17. I missed the bee boat (not that bees ride in boats) this year. But think along with our bird feeder, we also need to get a Mason bee home too. We have lots of flowering bits and bobbles that took forever this year to burst forth. We'll see how much fruit and veggies we get out of that. Hand pollinating is so not fun.

    Bernadette
    www.b3hd.blogspot.com

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  18. Wow! thanks for this one! I didn't know it was so easy -- or probably it's just you that makes it sound easy. this is definitely going on my To-Do List.

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  19. Wow this is an amazing idea, and their home is so cute!!! Would they be a good idea even if you only have a garden and flowers and no fruit trees?

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    1. Flowers are just fine! As long as there are some flowers out near the middle of March. Some flowers don't bloom until later in the spring so you'll need to make sure there's something out for them. There usually is :)
      Hope that helps
      Ashli

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  20. this is so interesting! I am going to see if mason bees are available in Ontario- not sure anything is in bloom by the middle of march here. But they are cool little dudes!

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  21. congrats on your crop of apples, by the way. just this morning, i heard on CBC Fresh Air that up to 90% of apple crop in Ontario has dwindled this year due to bad weather, so we will be seeing significantly high priced apples in the markets.

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  22. Wow. How have I never heard of these bees before? I just asked my husband, and he of course has heard of them.

    My husband and I are Bee Keepers and we live on a farm with about 12 fruit trees. We can definitely see how just 4 years of having bees has made an impact on fruit production.

    I think next spring we are definitely going to try out some Mason Bee's! Thanks for the info!

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  23. would these bees be able to survive Thunder Bay winters? It's in western ON 30min. from the us border.

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