This might be my last mason bee update until November. Activity has slowed considerably around this royal house. We never expected to see the mason bees past June, but the nasty weather this spring has really put a damper on them the last few weeks. We still see them around occasionally, but they aren’t zipping and zooming like the good old days (you know, April). They mostly lounge around, napping or pondering the universe.
Our Blue Orchard Mason Bees have filled 28 of the holes in the Royal House. I highly doubt we will make it to 30, but I’m willing to be surprised. We’ll leave them like this behind the mud walls – pupating, larva-ing, growing, eating the food their moms packed for them – until the late, late fall/early winter. By late fall, the eggs have hatched into larva, which have metamorphized into adults wrapped securely in papery cocoons. The cocoons are stable enough to handle. We’ll open up the house, clean out pests, mites and debris, and store the cocoons in the fridge until next spring.
I have really enjoyed having the mason bees. Our whole family has learned from them, and they helped to temper our bee-mania until the honey bees arrived. Mason bees require less attention, work, and space than a honey bee hive, so it’s a great way to get hard-working beneficial insects in your yard without a lot of work.
It’s critical that we support our local solitary bees: Our fruit trees, crops, native plants and flowers need them. Our ecosystems need them. We need them. I would encourage anyone with even a foot of outdoor space to consider adding housing for solitary, native bees, and anyone with three feet of outdoor space to plant pollinator-friendly plants. You can find tons of great info and regional planting guides at pollinator.org. There’s a lot more information about pollinator conservation available through the Xerces Society. I highly recommend both of these sites, and I appreciate the fantastic resources they offer. I bought my starter bee cocoons from the Home Orchard Society near Portland, OR. My Royal House came from the Beez Neez Apiary near Snohomish, WA. Next year, we hope to add Bumble Bee housing to our buzzing backyard!
Sweet dreams, little bees. Thanks for your hard work. We’ll see you next February.