Me and My Mason Bees

I am very suggestible when it comes to gardening. When my West Coast Seeds catalogue arrives each spring I have a very hard time narrowing my order down. I want to buy all the seeds, and all the supplies. I am very much a bandwagon jumper. Sometimes this pays off, like when I discovered my fabulous potato planter bags that make potato harvesting a breeze and free up garden space. Sometimes this doesn’t pay off, when I bite off more than I can chew and my crops fail.

This year I’ve undertaken an experiment, prompted by my catalogue, that may or may not pay off. I’m keeping Mason bees. They are native pollinators, and reputed to be very gentle. In fact, apparently the males don’t even have a stinger. I ordered a mason bee starter kit that included a mason bee house, nesting tubes and a little cardboard box filled with Mason bee cocoons. When the cocoons arrived I put them in my fridge, as instructed.

Keeping Mason bees sounds very easy. You put the house up, take the little box of cocoons out of your fridge, open one end and place the box inside the house. Within about half an hour the males emerge. The females slowly make their way out a few days or weeks later. The females then return to the house to lay their eggs, and by the fall those eggs have hatched, pupated and built cocoons, which go into your fridge for next year.

This past weekend I put up my Mason bee house and placed my little box of cocoons inside. When I opened the box I was surprised to see a bee staring back at me. I’m thinking that maybe it somehow got a little warmer than it was supposed to, and I was scared, but the bee emerged in a few minutes looking none the worse for wear. It flew off pretty quickly thereafter. Only a few minutes later my daughter and I could hear another bee working its way free. He slowly climbed out, then made his way to the top of the house to warm up in the sun before flying away. My daughter took his empty cocoon and put it in her box of treasures.

So far, I haven’t seen any females making their way out, but it’s been a little bit rainy. I’m just trying to leave the bees to their own devices, and trust that they know what they’re doing. It’s not like I can control them in any way in any case, so this seems like the best course of action. I’ll keep you updated on any more bee-related action that I see. In the meantime, here are a few photos of my Mason bee adventures.

mason bee house
Mason bee house

mason bees
Another angle of the house

first mason bee out
The first mason bee to emerge

looking for the sun
The second mason bee to emerge, crawling into the sun

mason bee cocoon
An empty mason bee cocoon

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  1. This is brilliant! And just when I thought I was cool for mothering butterflies last summer, you went and one-up’d me. This is very cool. A little envious, but very excited to see your updated.
    Tairalyn’s last post … RECIPE: homemade graham crackersMy Profile

  2. Congrads on your success! That’s so exciting. We tried to have mason bees last year at our home and nothing happened. None hatched and no local bees arrived either. I feel discouraged but we probably should try again this year. They’re very productive and efficient bees.
    Pamela’s last post … Only Mid GenXers Know For CertainMy Profile

    • I’m sorry that your bees didn’t hatch last year – that’s too bad. It might be worth trying again. I’ve also heard some people report that they found their bees later someplace else, after thinking they didn’t make it. Maybe that happened?

  3. It’s great that you are raising native pollinators! I was relieved to read recently that the mysterious bee crisis affects mostly the one type of honeybees that have been used as the “professional pollinators” in the U.S. but that there are many types of bees native to the Americas that are doing fine and could pollinate our crops; they just need good habitats near the fields, which can be a problem as industrial farming tends to remove or kill off everything but the one crop. I hope your bees thrive and are helpful in your garden and your neighbors’!
    ‘Becca’s last post … Fishgiving: A Feast from the Freezer!My Profile

    • I’ve heard the same thing – native pollinators don’t succumb to the same diseases as non-native pollinators. It’s almost like Mother Nature knows what she’s doing. 😉

  4. Joan Morris says:

    How neat to see you photos. And great for the kids to see the bees in their new home. I’d love to start a mason bee hive. We have a bat house on the roof but have never seen any bats??

  5. Yay! Four of my twelve have emerged, but I have not been lucky enough to see them. Only boys so far. I got so excited that the next time I was in Ladner I stopped by West Coast Seeds and picked up another dozen bees, which I have been told is a good idea. Staggering the times I put out the cocoons will increase my chances of success apparently, much like gardening I suppose, lol. So exciting! This is purely for fun for me because we have a bumblebee hive under our shed and lots of other native bees in our yard (digger bees in our lawn, which also don’t sting).
    Christy’s last post … Earth Hour LessonsMy Profile

    • Only my boys are out so far, too. 6 of 10 have emerged, but I only saw the 2, and I haven’t seen any of them since. Staggering sounds like a good idea – if only I lived closer to West Coast Seeds!

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