Welcome to March! If you haven’t already installed a mason been house in your yard, now’s the time. It’s also time to move your mason bee cocoons outside where warming temperatures will wake up the bees and encourage them to get moving.
Be sure your mason bee house faces south or east so the morning sun reaches it. Don’t place it behind a tree or near a bird house or bird feeding station. In order to enjoy the bees, mount their house at eye level so you can watch them at work.
Last year, my neighbor’s boy bees emerged from their cocoons on March 28; the females appeared on April 4. Girl bees emerge from the larger cocoons and are laid first, at the back of the tube. Boy bees are at the front of the house, so they have to get out first, making way for the females to follow.
The mason bee native to our area is the Blue Orchard Mason Bee, Osmia lignaria, which emerges in early spring about the time dandelions start blooming. In addition to a bee house filled with tubes about 8 mm in diameter, they need moist clayey mud to seal individual eggs into their own room where they’ll eat the pollen mom has left behind to give them energy to spin their cocoons. Mason bees have a flying range that’s limited to about 300 feet, or the length of one football field, and they collect pollen from almost any flower type.
Mason bees are wonderful pollinators because they’re hairy little creatures that collect pollen all over their bodies, unlike honey bees that only carry pollen on their legs. These gentle bees very rarely sting and are critical in food production so the Community Carbon team suggests making a home for them in your yard.
-by Carol Harker (Community Carbon Team Leader at St. Andrew Lutheran)
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