Sunday, May 3, 2009

Ready For Occupancy


I've been interested in Mason Bees (Osmia lignaria) since reading an article about them in a University of Arizona publication last fall. Until I read the article, I didn't know a thing about them, or that they occur naturally in Arizona as well as throughout the United States. These bees are smaller than honey bees and almost black in color. They are docile and friendly, and do not normally bother humans if they are not bothered. They are not destructive like carpenter bees because they do not excavate nest holes for themselves. The way to attract them is to provide them a bee house all ready for nesting. The nests are placed facing east or south. In Arizona, the bee house can go up from February to July to attract the bees.

Supplying a ready-made nest helps the female Mason bee spend less time and effort on nest preparation and more time on gathering nectar and pollen and laying eggs. First, she places a mud plug at the bottom of the tube, then brings 15 to 20 loads of nectar and pollen from spring flowers until she has enough to begin laying an egg in the tube. Then, she will plaster the opening of the tube with a mud plug, and move on to prepare and complete the next tube and so on. She only lives for about a month, and will produce one or two eggs a day. The eggs become larva, which feed on the pollen pellet. After it consumes the pellet, it spins a cocoon and pupates within the tube cell. Around September, the larva transforms into an adult bee that stays in the plugged tube until the following spring. And the cycle begins again.

So far, no Mason bees have nested in my bee house. I wonder if I got it up too late in the season, or if there are no Mason bees around here yet. I guess I'll just wait to see if any show up between now and July. I hope so, as I was looking forward to watching them at work.

Honey bees aren't interested in the nests, but some leaf cutter bees and wasps will build nests in the bee house, so I'll have to watch for that. You can tell if something other than a Mason bee has filled a tube. The Mason bee plugs have a rough mud surface, the wasp mud plugs are smooth, and the leaf cutters seal their tubes with chewed leaves so they are green in color.


13 comments:

GardenJoy4Me said...

That is one gorgeous home fit for just the right Mason Bees : )
I find it so amazing how detailed their little lives are and how different each type is to each other. Perhaps it just needs a little more time ? I hope they do choose your home Aiyana .. they would be perfectly happy there : )

Claude said...

I hope they show up... Thanks for the information about them. I'd heard about them before, but only in a glancing way...

Phoenix C. said...

I'd never heard of Mason bees either. I wonder if we get them in the UK?

I hope you soon get tenants for your lovely apartment complex for bees!

Sheryl Smith-Rodgers said...

I made a bee box too. I've got photos on my blog. No tenants as yet.

Town Mouse said...

You and me both ;-> I just did my post on bee houses. I do think it takes a little time, but I've been amazed by a bee house I saw at another gardener's wall, just humming with different native bees.

Pudgeduck said...

sounds fun! Where did you purchase the tubes? Are you participating this year in the Great Sunflower Bee Project?

Aiyana said...

Pudge,
I got my bee house from Kinsman Garden Company in PA. Mail order. They have lots of garden related items, but most are suited for different climates. I didn't want to attempt to build a bee house until I actually attracted some. If this works, then this coming winter I'll make a wood one and get it up in January, just to be safe!
Aiyana

Mrs. Darling said...

Ive been annkering to raise bees lately. Id like to get my son into them for a hobby. But Im kinda scared! LOL Love your set up there.

Dee said...

This is so cool! I've not heard of Mason bees- where did you get the nest? I have leaf cutter bees in my yard- they are awful on my roses and take away pieces of other plants too.

Dee said...

I see you gave the place you bought yours- no need to tell again.
thanks!

Dee/reddirtramblings said...

I hope they come soon. I'd like to see what they do with their abode.~~Dee

MrBrownThumb said...

I also read about them and wanted to put up places like this for them. I totally forgot until I read your post. I wonder if it is too late for me to do so.

Sally said...

For those of you wondering how you get the mason bees, you can order their cocoons and a wide variety of housing online. It's a little late in the year to order them unless you can find a company that will ship them in ice. I got some earlier in the year that are resting in my fridge until the last freeze passes.
I had a pretty good crop of them last year - until a wood pecker decided to eat them. Lesson learned: put chicken wire around your manson bee house(s) to keep the birds away.