First Spring with My Western Blue Mason Bees

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The Mason bees in their little bee sleeping bags (cocoons)

My first season with my Western Blue Mason bees has been a tricky one. Everything was cruising along just fine until we decided to look for a place with a little more land — and found it. We didn’t have an exact date pinned down for the move-in, but spring wasn’t waiting for the likes of us and we knew that our bees were going to want to wake up soon.

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Boring, cookie-cutter tract home

So, Husband-Extraordinaire, the Children of the Corn, and I decided to take them up to our new place in Gold Country (Placerville or Old Hangtown), hang up their little bee condo, and release them up there. Although, it’s been extremely difficult to get the pictures that I’d like, I think it was a smart move on our part. Placerville area is where California loves to grow their apples…and all kinds of other fruit trees. In other words, Mason bee heaven.

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Semi-custom home in the same neighborhood

First, we rolled out the welcome mat by having the youngest of us decorate the bee house to resemble our indoor fairy house. We then used logic and science while we argued about the best location to place our first bee residence. We’re pretty sure our only-neighbors-on-the-hill didn’t hear a thing.

Of course, it ended up being secured in the exact location that I had suggested from the beginning. This isn’t so much because I’m bee-brilliant as it is that I have a secret weapon when it comes to rearing mason bees — Dave Hunter. Husband-Extraordinaire and the Children of the Corn are in no such way hooked up to bee people. So I win. Here’s a couple of tips for the spring from Dave at Crown Bees:

    • The males will emerge first and hang around the holes waiting for females to pounce upon and mate. They will also forage for food, but predominantly will wait for the females.
    • The females will emerge next (2-7+ days). They will forage, mate with the males, and then begin nesting.
    • You might not see females actively go in and out of your holes for a while. Be patient…
    • Your females might find other holes to nest in around your house, and they might also move to where they feel there’s better pollen and holes. It’s awfully tough trying to train a bee to know which house is theirs!
    • Birds may want to nest in your mason bee house if there’s room. They may also want to play with the straws. (for shame!) Consider placing netting over the entrance if you’re concerned. Use holes no smaller than ½”. A garden or hardware store will carry netting or chicken wire.
    • Pests, especially parasitic wasps or cuckoo bees. The cuckoo likes to sit near a hole that is being slowly filled by a mason bee. When the cuckoo bee sees the mason bee leave, she quickly runs in and lay her egg in the pollen filled hole. This egg hatches later and its larva then kills our mason bee egg/larva. The wasp lays her eggs through the side of thin tubes and can squeeze through plastic trays. You can remove either by spraying them with water from an old Windex squirter. (and then squishing them. I know… we should let nature do their thing, but still!!!)
    • Mud is important! Be watchful that you have moist mud. Open water isn’t what’s needed… your bees can’t swim! Crownbees.com has a suggested mud pit to try.
    • Dead male mason bees near the colony. This isn’t a bad thing, but something to be aware of that is natural. (They live only 2 weeks!)

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Here’s what my Mason bees probably look if I actually had a picture…

Next, I’m going to con…I mean ask politely the only-neighbor-on-the-hill if she’ll snap a picture of my bees in the next day or two. If it turns out her legs are broken or worse, she heard us yelling and already refuses to speak to us, then I’ll snap a few next Friday to share with ya’ll.

*In case you missed it, here’s the first post here on Western Blue Mason bees ~ My Blue Mason Bees Have Arrived!

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