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).
Subscribe to the Queen of Green digest
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:
- Derry's Orchard and Nursery (in B.C.'s Lower Mainland)
- West Coast Seeds sells bee cocoons, condos, books, and more
- Beediverse is a major supplier of bees and bee houses
- I sell cocoons too! Learn more at Blessed Bee.
- Look for local "Seedy Saturday" events
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