What are Mason Bees?
Mason Bees have 402 species that are found naturally all over North America. We tend not to notice them because they are dark blue in color and look like large flies. Mason bees are different from honey bees and bumblebees because they do not have a queen, do not make hives, and do not make honey. Because they do not have these things to protect, they normally don’t sting and are safe around children and pets.
What are Mason bees good for?
The benefit of Mason bees is that they are excellent pollinators; 120 times more effective than honey bees or bumble bees. Mason bees do not have a hive to carry pollen back to so all of the pollen they collect stays with them. Plus, they are more “scruffy” than honey bees — they have a lot of hair on their bodies and don’t bother to clean it very much — so as they go from flower to flower, they pick up a lot of pollen and transfer it to more flowers. Mason bees are also early risers, they emerge in early Spring when temperatures are still cold, long before honey bees become active. This is typically when fruit trees begin to bloom. All this increased pollination will improve the yield on fruit trees and increase the quantity and quality of bloom on flowering plants and herbs.
Life Cycle of Mason Bees
Mason bees will normally begin to appear in early spring, usually in March or April. They mate soon after emerging from their home and immediately begin their search for pollen and nectar. The female will begin looking for a new home to begin to lay her eggs. If she finds a tube or beetle boring that has previously been used, she will first clean it out. If she finds a nester tube, she will use it immediately. She will start by going to the back of the tube and laying an egg, depositing some pollen and nectar for food, and building a wall to create a cell. She repeats this process about 10 times, creating a cell for each egg. This activity usually continues through June, then they will begin dying. By this time the eggs are starting to hatch and eat the food that was left for them. The larvae go through their entire cycle inside each individual cell, molting 4 to 5 times. Around August, they will spin a cocoon and begin gradually developing into an adult Mason bee.
At Burns Feed Store we have what you need to get your little pollinators started! We carry Orcon mason bee supplies including mason bee cocoons.