Mason bees have the ability to fly in our weather conditions and at lower temperatures than other bees. They are relatively easy to stage and care for. Native throughout continental USA and southern Canada, Blue Orchard Mason Bees are super-efficient, hard-working , spring crop pollinators: They collect nectar and pollen at the same time by lighting on the flower, taking nectar by tongue and collecting pollen using their rear and middle legs. A single female mason bee will visit nearly 2,000 blossoms a day and a smaller home orchard can be adequately pollinated by 40 – 50 bees. Ten mason bees will pollinate thousands of blossoms making them important for home garden pollination.
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Setting up nesting sites for these gentle, beneficial insects is fascinating, fun and good for our local environment. Creating a haven for mason bees at home is a wonderful educational opportunity for children of all ages. Kids can get up close and personal with the bees during their winter hibernation, when their nests are dismantled and their cocoons are cared for. Learning about their life cycles is a great first step in understanding garden ecology.
To increase fruit harvests, many people provide nest sites for mason bees. These small, solitary insects gather pollen over a short period of time in the spring to nourish their offspring in nesting holes. As they gather pollen, they pollinate fruit trees, cane fruit and strawberries. These bees are very easy to work with. They do not sting and go about their business even with you watching very closely. Mason bees provide a great educational opportunity for kids to learn about the life cycles of beneficial insects. Your goal should be to increase the native population in your yard by providing nest sites, caring for them over the winter and providing safe, clean nest sites the following year.
The Mason Bee Lifecycle Poster describes the intricate details of their lifecycle in an easy-to-follow format. We also sell kits, care-guides, books, bee shelters and specialty tools to help you keep your bees healthy and productive.
Mites may be harmful to native populations of mason bees, so cleaning the nest sites and cocoons is critical. It is important to remove the cocoons from the nest site and clean them to prepare for the next season. This is done from October to December, when you gather the hibernating cocoons to wash them and store them over the winter. The Mason Bee bookdescribes this well.
Please see Apiculture Factsheet #506 on pollination by the Blue Orchard Mason Bee (Osmia lignaria) from the BC Ministry of Agriculture and Lands for more information on mason bees.