Sherry & Terry's Blog

BFF

Organic gardening is what keeps me and Terry grounded and connected to the earth. In our busy lives amidst rapidly-changing technology, it is a much-needed reminder that we are part of nature and that nature is part of us. The simple beauty of flowers and plants never fails to keep us in awe and when the garden is bursting with culinary delights we feel a tremendous sense of gratitude for nature's generosity to nurture, provide and feed us. As we look at the abundance, it is easy to forget smaller parts of the big picture.
Mid-February of this year, Terry and I attended a local seed exchange. We had never been to one before so we perused the tables and were welcomed to select and take home any seeds we were interested in, mostly for free. At one table, we stopped to chat with two gals who had small pieces of 2x4 blocks glued together. Many quarter inch holes were drilled into them with a square piece of duroid roofing tile hammered on top. We were told these were orchard mason bee homes. We had never heard of these bees before even though they are quite common in North America.


Mason bee photo.jpg Orchard mason bees are solitary bees. They do not live in colonies and have a metallic green or blue colouring. At first glance, it is easy to mistake them for a house fly. The mature females are fertile and able to fertilize their own eggs to establish the sex of their offspring. The lifecycle of the mason bee consists of a female finding an appropriate nesting site. They lay their 6 to 8 eggs in long nesting cells. The female (fertilized) eggs are laid deepest in the cell with the male (unfertilized) eggs closer to the entrance of the cell. Each egg is separated by a mud wall and has a food supply of pollen or pollen/nectar for the egg to develop to adulthood. The adult hibernates through the fall and winter and emerges in early spring when the temperature reaches 14 degrees C. The males emerge first and wait for the females to come out. The females mate right away with the males and then the males die. The females feed for several days while waiting for their ovaries to mature and then the work to establish offspring begins once again.
Mason bees transport pollen on the underside of their abdomen as opposed to other bees which collect pollen mostly on their legs. They are considered to be inefficient pollen collectors as they need to take ten times more trips to the flowers of plants to bring back the same amount of pollen collected by honey bees. A mason bee must visit 75 flowers per trip and log 25 trips to stock the food supply for one egg. This inefficiency and committment to hard work is what benefits fruit orchard farmers as mason bees are used to pollinate their trees in springtime.
mason bee house.jpgWe bought two mason bee apartments from the seed exchange and placed them under the garage roof overhang. All of the holes are now sealed with mud so we will see what emerges next spring. These bees like staying close to home (no wonder, when you have so much work to do!) so we figure our garden will be the benefactor of their hard work. We are excited to have new residents and hope they are just as happy to be BFF...BEE Friends Forever!

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Comments (5)

Great info...this is the first year we've saved some seeds for planting next year, so we're excited to reduce our garden footprint that much more.

We're going to build some bee houses too...more great info!!

Calvin | August 13, 2009 at 12:32 PM

A friend on Facebook who is involved with the seed exchange let me know about it.

I also found my city's info on this website
http://www.localeating.ca/tag/seed-exchange

Sherry & Terry replied to Rada | August 6, 2009 at 3:15 PM

You can find out more about seed exchanges from:

www.seeds.ca under "events". Most exchanges go under the name "Seedy Saturday" and are held Jan-April every year.

We hold ours in Richmond the first Saturday in March.

Arzeena | August 5, 2009 at 1:30 PM

Great post! I didn't know about seed exchanges - what a cool idea. Where did you find out about the one in your area?

Rada | July 29, 2009 at 2:14 PM

I'm not sure if I've ever seen them. If I have, I would have thought they were just a different variety of the fly. Fascinating stuff. I guess my daughter-in-law would still be deathly allergic to these types of bees.

Teresa | July 28, 2009 at 4:20 PM