Photo: Are your mason bees ready for spring?

Release your mason bees on a calm day with a minimum 11˚C noon-hour temperature (14˚C is ideal when your garden is 25 per cent in bloom). (Credit: Daveeza via Flickr)

I have 100 sleepy mason bees, but that's about to change. I anxiously wait for 14º C days and blooming heather!

Brian Campbell of Blessed Bee Farm shares tips to help your mason bees spring into action:

Where to mount a mason bee house

Mount it on the south or east side of your house, shed, or directly on a fence. Nest height can be eye level—bees will ignore you so put it where you can watch them!

Do not mount mason bee homes:

  • On trees or clothesline posts: Tiny bee brains can't process colour and detail at high speeds! (The side of your house is highly visible)
  • In the shade: Full sun is best. Shade later in the day is fine.
  • On a third floor balcony: too high and windy.

When to release your mason bees

Climate change is making weather patterns unpredictable. Aim for a calm day with a minimum 11˚C noon-hour temperature (14˚C is ideal when your garden is 25 per cent in bloom).

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Will the mason bees I release use my house?

Hungry males emerge first. Flowers in bloom will encourage them to establish. If males stay, females are more likely to stick around.

Even under excellent conditions 50 per cent of your bees may leave due to emerging from a container instead of a real nesting cavity.

If you buy bees and they take off to your neighbour's yard, it doesn't mean you've planted a bee un-friendly garden. Try again next spring!

Increase the odds of "your" bees adopting your bee house—put half of them out now (mid-March), and release the rest when temperatures are 14˚C (and no wind). Still have bees in their tubes? Place them outside to emerge naturally. Bees that you cleaned in the fall can be placed on top of the soil near your nest.

What types of bee plants are needed?

Some plants attract and support Blue Orchard Mason Bees better than others: open cup-shaped blossoms like apple, plum, cherry, pear, and crocus, or small tubular-shaped blossoms like species in the Ericaea family (heathers and heaths, blueberry, skimmia, pieris, rhododendron) and currents.

And don't forget to provide a clay source near your mason bee house. It takes approximately 50 trips for them to gather enough to make one cell wall!

Where can I buy mason bees?

Try these mason bee sellers:

Will you raise mason bees this year?

Comment on this blog for your chance to win a mason bee starter cottage from Beediverse! (Draw date March 26th)

Lindsay Coulter, Queen of Green

March 19, 2012

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Mar 14, 2016
9:02 PM

We saved our cocoons from last year and are a little unsure when to put them outside.?.? North end of vancouver island. Would love to win another house. We ordered more bees and will try to make a house. I rolled out plain newsprint paper to make the tubes. Hope this will work.

May 11, 2015
8:05 AM

would like to get emails on Mason Bee keeping

Jan 14, 2015
2:01 AM

Good article. I’d like to get started on this endeavor, however I’m not really interested in making my own bee house (as I read online on another web site). As you can imagine, there are numerous manufacturers of bee houses. Can somebody make a recommendation as to a solid ready-made bee house that will provide me with years of reliable service???

Mar 29, 2014
12:18 PM

Can you recommend some easy clay sources for our yard? We have lots of dirt and but not sure how clay-filled our garden is. Thanks

Apr 12, 2013
12:22 AM

It’s misleading to say a third floor balcony doesn’t work for orchard mason bees, in fact there is a deficiency of habitat at that height in the city. I put up drilled blocks on south facing brick wall, after I saw what at first I thought black flies, were bees looking for openings in the mortar. Observing them I saw they were flying over the rooftops to the ornamental cherry trees across the street, and back to poke between the bricks for somewhere to lay their embryos. After I put up a block drilled in some 2X6, the 20 or so holes filled up, and I put another one up, and it got half-filled, this was going on until early June. Also the kids in South Park Elementary put blocks outside of their upper south-facing windows. I would like to resurrect an urban canopy, for all the birds and bees that had habitat in trees, and make it part of city building code that public buildings include amenities for them, it need not be expensive. Also office buildings should have raptors etched on the windows to deter bird crashes. This can be done aesthetically and unobtrusively and save a lot of birds. If you think about it, before the city was there, flowering trees were everywhere, and had quite a life 60 feet up and more visiting them and nesting.

Nov 12, 2012
11:28 PM

Thanks- My kid can't wait to have bees !

Apr 03, 2012
9:36 AM

I love mason bees! And they love my garden — particularly my lavender and raspberry bushes! I call the raspberry bushes — bee bushes and they "buzz" on a sunny day. I would love to have a bee house for them to live in!

Mar 26, 2012
10:55 AM

Not sure people truly realize the importance of bee survival in our environment. Great article!

Mar 23, 2012
9:12 PM

I didn't even know such a home existed! What great knowledge, need to get involved with this!

Mar 23, 2012
4:29 PM

I am so excited by the idea of having Mason bees. Buzzzzzz. Learning more about how I can support pollinators is rad!

Mar 23, 2012
11:29 AM

how do I know if I already have wild mason bees in my area? And if I release more/build them homes, will it upset the natural bee balance? (#rural living, not urban.)

Mar 23, 2012
10:17 AM

I would love to add some mason bees to our garden — I think the raspberries and blueberries would benefit from a healthy population of pollinators. We seem to get a fair number of bumble bees — wondering if there's anything you can do to encourage them as well?

Mar 23, 2012
10:01 AM

Would love to contribute to the bee densification in my neighbourhood!

Mar 23, 2012
9:48 AM

Been wanting to have bees in my backyard winning this would put me in the right direction and give me the kick I need to help pollinate my food gardens

Mar 22, 2012
1:43 PM

Excellent article! I've been trying to set my mom up with a mason bee house and this article has the perfect information for her, thanks!

Mar 21, 2012
5:22 PM

This is very interesting. I never thought I could have bees living in my small backyard.

Mar 21, 2012
4:06 PM

Waiting for the snow to stop and things to warm up! Seeds ready to plant!

Mar 21, 2012
3:54 PM

I love this! I planted a bee friendly garden last year and am now in the market for a bee-home for my backyard. Love that you're educating on this!

Mar 21, 2012
7:33 AM

This is great! I study pollinators, and I'm happy to see that people are beginning to understand the importance of pollinators in their communities. You can make other local pollinators happy by planting flower species native to your area. Leaving plant stems in your garden over the winter and into the spring give your overwintering bees safe nesting areas. Also, bee boxes are becoming more common at farmers markets, and can be suited to a variety of species. Here's to healthy bees!

Mar 21, 2012
6:28 AM

I would love a mason bee house! Now I just need to get my kids' to stop freaking out every time they see a bug :)

Mar 20, 2012
1:38 PM

We are planning a trip to the bee centre to learn about bees and I want to get a mason bee house so my little ones can watch

Mar 20, 2012
10:12 AM

Interesting stuff. I knew about different kinds of bees, but never knew about mason bees.

Mar 20, 2012
9:44 AM

Our mason bees are still snoozing in the fridge :) Our cherry harvests have increased exponentially in the past few years since we started raising mason bees.

Mar 19, 2012
9:16 PM

I have mason bees that live inside the wall of my house. I also have one mason bee that lives inside the antique keyhole of an old door in my garden. Some people would think they are pests but I recognized them right away as beneficial insects, and welcome them to my garden! None have emerged just yet, but it has been fairly cold here in Victoria so far. Looking forward to seeing their emerald gleaming bodies and hearing their soft hum in my garden flowers!

Mar 19, 2012
2:04 PM

I really want to raise bees this year! I have some lovely native flowers that attract bees that I plan to sow this spring. I am concerned about ordering bees and how this might affect the native population. I live in Edmonton — can you tell me anything about potentially native mason bees? Thanks for the article ,and all of your hard work in helping us be a greener Canada! joanne

Mar 19, 2012
1:47 PM

I would love to win one of the Bee Cottages and nurture this beautiful species ! Thanks for all that you do in support of living green.

Mar 19, 2012
12:54 PM

I would SO love to have Mason bees. I have young kids so don't have the time to keep honeybees at this point, but really really want to some time. We live in the city but are doing our best to raise the kids to understand and respect nature and self-sufficiency. We are building a chicken coop this year!

Anyways please enter us for the draw, we'd love to house some bees :)

Mar 19, 2012
12:53 PM

I am anxiously awaiting my first spring/summer with a backyard

Mar 19, 2012
12:41 PM

I love to see and hear the bees out there at work making everything in the garden possible.

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