Here’s a montage of the 2010 mason bees:
I have written about our mason bees before:
In March 2010, when we installed the bee house.
Again in March, when they started to emerge.
When they filled the first hole in April 2010.
We checked on their progress in May 2010.
In June 2010, when activity slowed down in the bee house.
And, finally, in February 2011 when they were all quietly waiting for spring.
But a lot has happened between now and then, and somehow I never got back here to do a 2011 clean-up and re-start mason bee post. Now it’s June again and I haven’t written a thing about them. This generation of mason bees has some serious second child neglect. Please don’t tell them you prefer photos of fluffy adorable chicks.
In March 2011, I brought the mason bee house inside and cleaned it out. This is important because I left the bee house outside all summer, which meant that summer bees built on top of spring bees. So when the spring bees hatched, they would either die because they couldn’t get out, or kill the summer bees on their way out. Ideally, a person might have a system to accommodate both spring and summer bees but, well, we’re experimenting. Anyway, I cleaned out the bee house.
Inside, each tube has layers from the front to the back.
mud wall – cocoon – frass (waste products) – mud wall – cocoon – frass (repeat)
A single cocoon looks like this:
Then we hung the house out again, nice and clean. I put all the cocoons in an up-cycled yogurt container. Krista asked me why I insisted on stuffing garbage into our cute bee house, so I guess I need a new strategy for next year.
The weather this year has been, in one word, awful and the masons have struggled accordingly. We have seen some activity around the house, like this little lady. It was a relief to spot her after I had almost given up on any mason bees this year.
They filled the first hole at the beginning of May — later than last year. The bees seemed busy every nice day we had, but there weren’t many. Now it is June and the mason bee season has passed. Forgive this stylized camera phone photo; we got new cell phones and I’m a little obsessed. This is the progress they made.
At this time last year we had 20 mud-filled holes. This year, we have 12. I read the Cliff Mass Weather Blog, which has great information on western Washington weather patterns, and they are reporting:
The new numbers for the average March through May temperatures at Sea-Tac are in, and by any reasonable measure (average temperature, average maximum), this has been the coldest March through May at Sea-Tac since dependable records are available (1956).
Lets begin by viewing the 5 coldest springs ( average daily temperature for March-May) in the last 55 years from 1957 through 2011 at SeaTac:
1) 2011 47.6
2) 1975 47.8
3) 2002 47.9
4) 1964 48.0
5) 1962 48.0
My bee experiences are only anecdotal, but I suspect this weather affected my mason bees. Other western Washington beekeepers are reporting normal to good mason bee production this year, so maybe it’s just me. Furthermore, I hypothesize that some of our mason bees are using alternate accommodations – cracks between the wood shingle siding of our house, perhaps? I am not going to excavate the siding to find out, but I have seen enough bees buzzing around to think it might be true.
Last year, we had a flurry of summertime solitary bee activity. I don’t know what species they are, but they managed to fill another 8 holes before fall. So now I’m waiting for the summer bee activity – we have plenty of room for them, obviously.