I have noticed these tiny bees in my garden, but I didn’t recognize them all covered with pollen.
If you are thinking about keeping bees as a beginner, I recommend joining me in learning about and getting started with mason bees.
You will learn why below.
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There is a link here for a mason bee hotel for you to get ready for the Spring gardening season.
10 Amazing Characteristics About Mason Bees
Mason bees are called mason bees because, in a sense, they do masonry work. They are native to North America. The bees do not build wax comb as in the honeybee colony. Instead, the females look for small (8mm) tube-shaped holes around the size of a pencil. They create sections within the tube, first collecting pollen and placing it in the tube, then they lay an egg. Following this, they section it off with mud. Then they fill the next section with pollen, lay an egg and more mud. She repeats this pollen, egg, mud pattern until the tube is filled (about five to six eggs). A female will lay around 15 to 20 eggs in her lifetime.
Mason bees are solitary bees, unlike the social honeybee that relies on a complicated relationship within the colony with each bee having specific jobs, etc. The female is her own queen and worker. She is also called “crown” bees because she is a queen. She mates with a male, lays her eggs and dies about 10 weeks later.
Mason bees are some of the first bees to emerge in the Spring. They can tolerate temperatures down to 55 degrees. For much of North America, this means that mason bees will be active beginning in late February to early April.
Mason bees do not make honey. They eat pollen and nectar throughout their lives as they forage. There is no need to create stores of food as the adult bees die before the weather gets cold and the species overwinter as pupae. The pupae will emerge when the weather warms in the Spring.
Mason bees are excellent pollinators. This is mostly due to the lack of finesse that they demonstrate when it comes to landing on a flower. A honeybee will collect pollen on her body, mix it with saliva creating a paste and push it down into her pollen basket located on her legs. A mason bee, on the other hand, is more of a messy pollen gatherer. She lands willy-nilly on a flower spreading pollen everywhere. The pollen sticks all over her body like Velcro and is more likely to be redistributed to another flower in need of fertilization. For pollination to occur, orchards need less mason bees per acre than they would honeybees. Mason bees have a 95% pollination rate, where honeybees have a 5% pollination rate.
Mason bees make their nests about 300 feet from the best selection of flowers, whereas honeybees forage much further (up to two miles). This shorter range of forage gives the beekeeper more control as to where pollination occurs. You can set up a mason bee house near the trees/plants you wish to be pollinated and should have great success.
Mason bees are better pollinators than honeybees. Scientists have proven that mason bees pollinate 100 times more than honey bees because of the willy-nilly way they collect pollen. And, they will stay in your garden pollinating your garden!
They don’t drill holes or ruin your home like carpenter bees!
They are FREE! You don’t have to buy them, unless you want too!
The less flowers you have, the less eggs queens can lay.
Another great thing about mason bees is: You don’t need any expensive bee suits, etc.
However, mason bee houses can be bought or made from wood, thick paper straws or hollow reeds, etc.
Where To Place Your Nest
All they need is a nice, little mason bee hotelfacing west because they like to wake up with the warm sun rising in the east or south, and chill when the sun is setting in the west. This location also provides optimal protection from wind and rain.
Bees need warmth to fly and dry nesting tunnels to propogate.
It is important to place it in the proper location.
Hang the nest from 4 to 7 feet high or attach on your house near the garden at a good height for observing your bees.
Important To Note: Have a clay-like mud source nearby within about 50 feet because they need it to seal the cocoon.
Also, it is important to place your nest within 200-300 feet of pollen-rich, Spring blossoming plants and trees, so bees won’t waste energy or time foraging for food.
It’s ideal to have garden blossoms during the mason bee’s entire foraging season for pollen and nectar, so females can lay eggs to their full potential.
I first spotted mason bees on my squash and cucumber blossoms and Hibiscus; they love them!
Mason Bee Motels Make Great Observatories
As the days warm to 55 degrees, watch for bees streaming in and out of your nests and then for mud-plugged holes, indicating that a new batch of pollinators and another season with mason bees is buzzing!
You can make mason bee keeping as simple or complicated as you want.
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