Monday, April 30, 2012

mason bees - woohoo!


isn't that the cutest little thing that you have ever seen??? that's my new mason bee house from a lovely company in BC called BeeDiverse. i ordered a mason bee house and bee cocoons from them! mason bees are exceptional pollinators and something that we noticed last year in our garden is that we were lacking bee activity. mason bees pollinate for their whole lives - which is about 4-5 months long. they do not produce honey or beeswax but they do produce more mason bees each year - woohoo!
 



this is the book, dvd and chart that i received with my mason bee home and mason bee cocoons. the dvd is just awesome, explains everything, and Dr. Margriet has the most gorgeous accent and walks you through all of the steps of what to do, and how to care for your mason bees! she has been doing this for many years - see below!





anyway - here's a closeup of the tiny tunnels in the mason bee house. the female mason bees will start by filling the back of a tunnel with mud - there's a lot of that to be found here at the Manor! once they have made a little mud cave, they will fill it with pollen and when they have enough pollen to feed a new mason bee - then they climb on the pollen and lay an egg. once the egg is laid, they close up the little house with more mud!



a female mason bee makes five or six of these little mud houses with pollen and an egg in each of the little tunnels. once a tunnel is full - they move on to another tunnel. once all of the tunnels are full, if you are lucky, some of the females will then look for holes in rotting logs - something we have a plenty here at the Manor. they spend their whole lives doing this and, again, if you are lucky, you can start with 20 bees and end up producing 5 times that number in your first year!!! another great thing is that they normally stay within 15km of their home/nest. if they like their area, several females will start new nests. after the second year, and with proper fall/winter care of the cocoons - you could have hundreds of these little super pollinators who don't sting. mason bees rock! and learning to care for them is a great way to step into taking care of honey bees. i am in love with these little things!

so here is the little house again. the yellow thing next to it is a predator guard that goes on the front of the house.

 
 
the roof of the little house lifts off and that is where you put your mason bee cocoons. the bees will eat themselves out of the cocoons and then find themselves a little home in one of the tunnels.

 

when i opened the end of the boxes - i saw that the bees had already woken up! they were a little sluggish as is to be expected but they were definitely ready to greet the world! sorry that there are no pics of the bees in the box but we wanted to get them into their home right away!

jambaloney built them an extra box to be sure that they were safe from the elements and from some birds. the chicken wire ensures that no birds can get into their tunnels.



here is the post that jambaloney built to put up against our most east-facing tree.



here is the tree that we put the mason bee home on! isn't it gorgeous? and don't ya love the pile of dirt, the tires and the window screen - which we use to sift all of our dirt - in the pic? man we have gone completely past hillbilly and redneck and are now pure and honest white-trash - bahahahahah!



and be sure to note that jambaloney strapped the post holding the mason bee house to the tree using rope over pieces of firehouse so as not to damage the tree bark in any way - that's the way we like to do things around here! here it is:



isn't it beautiful???

and ya know what's even better???? after only an hour we saw bees! check them out:

 

they are still pretty sluggish and warming themselves in the sun. but we also saw some of them checking out the tunnels.

i am loving this mason bee adventure! if you have any questions, just ask. the book and dvd are very thorough. as well, there are a lot of sites that i can direct you to.

woohoo - mason bees!



47 comments:

  1. How cool!! I am so jealous of all the adventures you have. Love following along!!!

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    1. thanks agahg! i am enjoying your crazy adventures too!

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  2. HAHAHA! Hillbilly, redneck, white trash. I'm gonna giggle all day now. How 'bout face the music...ya'all are just peasants by choice. And I say not a bad choice at all.

    My choice of homestead is in a little backwater place that has not seen any commercial farming in nearly 50 years. The upside of this is we have wild colonies of honeybees. Do you need to even ask if I am smiling about this?

    I have noticed the Mason bees for sale and think that is an excellent idea for areas with no honeybees. No honey??? What is a girl to do??

    Winston

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    1. Winston - you gotta admit that we are pretty white trash!!! wait until you see the hilly-billy suntanning windbreak that jambaloney set up the other day - you'll be in fits of laughter!!!! and yes - we are both of hard-working peasant stalk and we love nothing more than running around naked, swimming, suntanning, planting, growing, napping, snacking - what all proper peasants have always done!

      oh! i am so jealous of your wild honeybees - do you think you could mail me a hive or two? i'd really appreciate it, buddy!

      and just give me a year or two and i am jumping into honeybees! you just wait!!!

      your friend,
      kymber

      (p.s. - poor jambaloney is sitting here replying to one of your emails. he just keeps groaning and sighing. poor guy. thanks so much for all of this Winston, eh? we really appreciate all of this!)

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    2. Well girl, you gotta help the poor boy out. I have thrown enough at him lately he needs you to straighten it all out for him. HAHAHA Wish I was a mouse in the wall watching all this.

      And just for the record, I do NOT have to admit to anything, LMHO. I have seen and been around white trash plenty, but you don't fit that image. Peasants, yes!

      And if you are going to jump into honeybees, you will very quickly learn chainmail bikinis just don't cut it, LMHO again. Go see Pissed for proper dress!

      Damn, now got me giggling too much again.

      Winston

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    3. Winston, buddy - i am helping when he needs it - it's just a lot of stuff to take in but we are both learning. again - thank you for sharing your knowledge with us! and yes - you would love to be a mouse in the hall watching this - you would giggle = that's for sure! i will surely go and find the proper attire for honey bees! hey - you didn't say if you would mail me a hive?!?!?!?

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    4. Truth be told I have not found their hives. But I have spent enough time watching them to know the general direction from my house. The problem is now I am too old to do that much climbing in rough terrain to find them.

      A few years ago I did locate one hive high in an old Madrone tree. About 30 feet above ground. The buzzing was intense, but they never bothered me on the ground.

      If I did maintain hives I would locate them on the roof of my house twenty feet off the ground. Otherwise just waaayyyy to tempting bear bait.

      So, follow PP's trail. He'll get you where I can no longer go. And your Mason bees are an excellent alternative. Well done.

      Winston

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    5. Winston - when i was younger i used to go looking for wild hives - so awesome! i would never climb the tree that the hive was in, i would climb a few trees over - i love bees! it has really bothered me that there aren't any bees around here - i thought we would have tons as we have so many different kinds of flowers. but that's ok cuz now i got the mason bees - woohoo!

      and yes - i will follow PP's trail...and once i get my honey bees poor PP is going to wish he was never born from all of the questions that i will have for him - bahahah!

      thanks Winston. it means a lot from you!

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  3. Kymber and Jambaloney, I think this is a brilliant idea, especially since you didn't have many bees to pollinate your gardens last year. What a great idea to make an extra box with screening on it to prevent the birds from gettin into the bees.
    Very interesting to sit back and watch the bees produce more bees.

    Oh, I also wanted to say thank you on the sage tea suggestion. It is working nicely and I'm sleeping better.

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    1. oh Sandy - i am soooo happy that the sage tea is working - excellent news - woohoo!

      Sandy - those little bees are the cutest things ever...i somehow have to figure out how to label them with their names so i will know who i am talking to. jambaloney says NO Way to sticking little sticky notes on all of them and ya know what? he's probably right.

      to be honest - i have been out there several times naming the little guys (the males come out first). and i think i am recognizing a few of them - teehee! thanks for such a sweet comment...you always leave such sweet ones!

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  4. Never heard of them so I'm curious, if they don't produce honey, what do they eat to remain fed over winter when pollen isn't around?

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    1. awesome question Ed. to answer: they only live for 4-5 months. then they die. but during that period, the females spend every day building their nests and laying eggs. inside of the nest is where they place collected pollen. the larvae mason bees eat this pollen, which is inside their cocoon, over the winter. you collect the cocoons at the end of your growing season/ fall/ autumn what have you - you have to wash them and disinfect them, and then you store them in the freezer over the winter to set them back out in their little homes in the spring. the ones that go wild, meaning go and start new colonies in old, rotting logs overwinter on their own. when spring comes, the males are the first to break out of their cocoons as the eggs are laid with 2-3 females at the back of the tunnel with 2-3 males laid at the front of the tunnel. the males only live a few weeks sadly. they find sources of pollen and mark it for the females to find as well as dig tunnels in sources of mud that are nearby the house/nest. once the females awaken, the males start dying. it's just their life-cycle - albeit, it's a short one. the females who have been shown where to find pollen and where to find mud - do that all day long until the first frost and then they die too.

      but by that time - both the males and the females will have lived full, but short lives. but they will have reproduced 5x the number of bees in their lifetimes. and this happens every year. bring on the mason bees!

      thanks for your thoughtful question. if you have any other questions, please don't hesitate to ask, eh buddy?

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  5. Congratulations and good luck!

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    1. oh Wendy, buddy - thanks! i hope they settle in just fine! i'll keep everyone updated - teehee - meaning i will bore everyone to death with posts about the mason bees - bahahahah!

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  6. Replies
    1. well, thank you kind Sir...would you like to be the first knighted one in my court?

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  7. Kymber - I reckon the blow up doll will make a good keeper of the mason bee house ! Oh, Bahahaha - would look impressive standing under the tree ... don't you think ?

    Nice - I like your idea there ! Congrats and have fun with them !

    Love ya ...xoxo

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    1. hey you Helga - stop talking about that blow up doll - bahahahah! but it might make a great scarecrow for my corn - oh i am just imagining it now - bahahahah! thanks buddy - like i said to Wendy - yer all gonna get sick of my mason bee updates - but i love them!!!

      lots of love to your my darlin! xoxoxo

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  8. I wish I wasn't so scared of being stung or I would have honey bees. I love honey. My neighbor has them though. We have tons of bees around here. You can hear them buzzing even if you can't see them all amongst the wildflowers.

    I like that you didn't nail the board to the tree. That always hurts my feelings. I love trees. They are my friends.

    There is nothing wrong with being "white trash". At least you don't have a trailer. LOL - Genevieve

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    1. Genevieve - mason bees don't sting! you could get some! i could even send you some this fall from the cocoons that are laid. and we never put nails or anything like that into living trees - like never! i love trees too...and yes they are our friends!

      bahahahah! have you seen our vandura?!?!? much worse than just an ordinary trailer - bahahahah!

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    2. Thank you for the offer but right now we are good on quantity thanks to our neighbor's hive. But if for any reason that changes I will take you up on that offer for sure. - G

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    3. you are very welcome, Genevieve!

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  9. You probably know that honeybees aren't natives. I will assume that mason bees are. Many folks don't realize that honeybees aren't needed for any crop that originated in the Americas,though they may improve production.

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    1. Mr. Smythe - you are right as usual - honey bees are not native to North America whereas the mason bees are! and that's why crops that originated in the Americas don't need honey bees - they never did - because the mason bees and other solitary bees did all of the pollinating! an excellent comment, Sir!

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  10. Late to comment of course as we were busy all day getting ready for our trip...This is too cool would love a link to where you purchased them!
    The houses I can make but the live bees are something I haven't seen.

    Pooped out Beth (but I will be catching catfish tomorrow night!!)

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    1. Beth - i hope you guys have a fantastic time! the houses are really simple to make you just need to drill 6inch holes into just about anything and then provide a little protection from birds. how soon do you need the bees? do you want them for this year? if you want them for next year i can send you some of my cocoons in the fall. i got them from beedivers.com - they are a canadian company in BC but i think they have a sister company in the states. i will do some digging and fire you off an email. again - enjoy your trip!

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  11. kymber...your bees are so cool. I love the way jambaloney set everything up. My bees are being mailed May 3...can't wait to get started. I have almost worn out one of the hives moving it and playing with it. I am just waiting to see which goat gets out of the pen and stands on top of one. I bet they will not be there long!

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    1. Mamma - i got to admit that they are the coolest little things i have ever seen! i love them! and ya - jambaloney made a super-cool house protector for them! oh and i feel bad for whichever little goat is gonna go stand on your hive - bahahahahah! poor little goat won't know what hit...er, bit...him!!!

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  12. Nice little bee house. We get Mason Bees here as well but I haven't noticed them as much since I started keeping honey bees.

    Good luck on your.... ahhh... Tunnel cluster? :)

    And where did you get all those tires OMG.

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    1. hey PP - ya - it's a cute little house for sure and they are very simple to make! we'll be making a few more for next year and putting some bees in each house. we had mason bees back at our place in the city as well as bumble and honeybees. we always had so many bees that i noticed right away last year that i wasn't seeing any bees and needed to come up with a solution to this problem - hence the mason bees.

      oh bahahahahah! that is only 1 pile of tires - we have another big pile of them across the yard and then we have about 70 in the yard all set up with dirt from last year. in total, by the end of the month, we will have about 175 tires planted. we have 24 tires set up right now for potatoes - each of the 24 will get 3more added to them over the growing season. it's a lot of tires. jambaloney gets them at a garage in our nearest town - bahahahah!

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  13. That is so awesome. You make me smile, kymber. This is so cool.

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    1. thanks buddy! i think it's pretty awesome myself. i have already checked on them like a thousand times - i just love my little bees!

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  14. Wow that is so cool! I was never really a fan of bees, but now I'm beginning to see them in a new light and appreciate their beauty. :)

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    1. Joey - it is really cool. i have always loved bees myself. and when you are trying to grow enough food to feed yourself, even if just for a season, you need the pollinators. i was thrilled to find out about mason bees and be able to get them from a reputed company in Canada. stay tuned - i promise to bore you to death about the mason bees - bahahahha!

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  15. Very cool ! I have not seen Mason Bees here. I will have to look them up.

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    1. Jane - i keep saying the same thing over and over and am probably boring everyone to death but when i noticed how few bees we had last year i panicked because i didn't want the pressure of learning how to care for honeybees on us this year! this year we are taking the garden to a whole new level and need to focus on that. so i had to find a solution to the bee problem that would be quick and easy. that's when i learned about the mason bees. they are native to north america and i really liked the idea of that. go ahead and look them up - they are fascinating to learn about. if i can help with any questions you may have - fire me off an email. xoxox

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  16. Kymber that is awesome, one day when I grow up...I hope to have property and get to do all the fun things you and JB do. : )

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    1. JUGM - oh don't you worry honey! as soon as your kids are proper raised and grown - you'll have all the time in the world to get up to crazy antics! and Senior will probably just groan - bahahahahah! xoxo

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  17. Neat idea, years ago I had a friend who kept honey bees on my property it worked out great. They are gone now but I still get lots of bees around. Glad it is working out for you all.

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    1. Duke - these little bees are a real neat idea! i am glad that you still have lots of bees around. mine have been slowly waking up and starting to fly around looking for pollen - i love these bees!

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  18. kymber,
    I bought clover seed and threw it out here on the well-manicured lawn in 1977. My yard is full of clover and bees. I have no idea what kind of bee because I stay away from them. You might try clover or wildflowers. You just fling and dump the wildflowers in stead of sowing in rows--easier and prettier!

    My carpenter bees like my freshly painted wood and never, ever plug holes. I think I prefer your mason bees.

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    1. PracticalP - we have a bunch of clover in the yard and afew days ago i threw out three packs of clover seed - great minds think alike eh? and we have a bunch of wildflowers already growing around the whole property but last year - no bees?!?!?! carpenter bees are solitary bees as are the mason bees. and i will not be surprised if several of the mason bees leave their house and go make a new house in some of our rotting logs....i won't mind though - as long as they around and pollinate. off to your next comment -

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  19. Did not mean to post...love the house and idea to keep birds away.

    A politician nailed a sign to a huge oak tree in my front yard. I have my husband take it down. I called the politician and told him how despicable it was to put a nail into a tree, that it was not his tree, where he could find his sign, and that I would never vote for him. He sputtered lots.

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    1. ya - we have a lot of birds here and apparently several species of birds will try and get to the little cocoons so jambaloney constructed the chicken wire thing - it'll work like a dream!

      i am so glad that you called that politician - i can't believe the gall of him to NAIL a sign to your tree. ugh!

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  20. BZZZ BZZZZ! Someday I would like to try out some bees. My friend Michelle has a hive,but for some reason her swarm took off.She is going to try again next year.Good luck!!!!

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  21. Good luck with the bees. Might try it another year.

    Hopefully the chicken wire will keep out the little birds.

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  22. I'm pressed by how quickly that all came together. I think the chicken wire, as well, is a grand idea. Looking forward to more updates.

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