Attract the Friendly, Low-maintenance Pollinator – The Mason Bee

We’re sure you’ve heard numerous reports about declining populations of honey bees and other pollinators, not just locally but across the globe.  This affects not only our flower & vegetable gardens but also a much more serious problem – our food supply as a whole.  Luckily there are steps that we can take to help pollinators and also keep more of them in our yards.  One way is by adding homes for a bee you may not have heard of – the Mason bee.

Blue Orchard Mason Bee – photo courtesy of permiegardener via flickr

Mason bees are readily and easily attracted to tubes in commercial nesting houses.     We have a variety of Mason bee houses available at Atlantic Avenue Orchid & Garden.  Since the bees like morning sun, hang houses in an east or south facing spot, protected from heavy rain.

Mason bees are so named for their habit of utilizing mud in their nests made of hollow reeds or in holes bored in wood by other insects.  They are solitary, having no hierarchy order.  Each female is fertile and the species requires no worker bees since they do not make beeswax or honey.  They are a safer, friendlier bee.

They are beneficial and docile, pollinating your plants while being safe around children and pets.

Having no hive to protect, they will only sting when squeezed or stepped on.   They are also active earlier in the season and can survive cooler temperatures, being a hardier species than the honey bee.  Some suggest that a Mason bee can do the pollination work of 120 honey bees.

Mason Bees have quite a fascinating life cycle! In spring the males emerge first and wait near the nest.  They mate with the females once they emerge.  The males then die, and the females select a tube for a nest.  Each female lays multiple eggs in divided cells which she creates, sealing each with mud.  Once the tube is full, she may then continue with another nest. She includes pollen & nectar for nutrients in each cell so that, once hatched, the maturing larva will have enough to sustain itself as it grows.    Toward the end of summer, the larva will create a cocoon, reaching maturity sometime in fall or winter, and hibernating until spring.

Add a colony of Mason bees to your yard today and improve the yield of your fruits and vegetables as well as enjoy more blossoms on your plants! You can also feel good knowing you are helping our friend, Mother Nature, in the process.