I got my mom started on raising mason bees this year. I sent her a box a couple of months ago (eastern mason bees), but she didn’t think they were hatching and put in a new order last Monday. Since it’s towards the end of the season, Crown Bees sent her an extra 60 cocoons. When they arrived, some had already hatched. Mom was like a little kid full of glee when she called me! She was having a laugh about what the mail carrier thought when hearing their buzz (she said it sounded like somebody’s cell phone was on vibrate). I don’t think she’s getting much work done today…she’s having too much fun watching them hatch and mate!
I just spent the past 2 1/2 hours harvesting about 2/3 of the cocoons from the nesting tubes, washing away the dirt and letting the cocoons sit in a bath of (weak) bleach water. I’m happy to report that I saw no parasites this year and no evidence of mites (it there had been mites, I would have seen orange or red spots on the paper towel where the cocoons are drying). Once the cocoons are dry, I will be putting them in the special humidifier box I bought from Crown Bees and storing them in the refrigerator until spring. I will finish harvesting the rest of the cocoons later this week.
A partially filled block and a mesh bag of filled tubes.
A partially filled tray with viable cocoons that are separated by the hardened mud plugs.
Some of the larvae never spun cocoons and were discarded.
Washed cocoons drying on paper towels.
Unstacked nesting trays drying after being scrubbed and disinfected.
Now that my mason bees have died (naturally) and the larva are developing in their cocoons, I’ve had a chance to observe other bees around my house. Usually, it’s bumblebees and yellow jackets. Both are beneficial pollinators, but I really dislike the yellow jackets. They can attack honey bees, plus I’m allergic to their sting. Yeah, I’m allergic to the honey bee sting, too, but there’s just something about yellow jackets that I hate, making me very prejudice against those menacing yellow & black nuisance.
I was walking from my car to the front steps and noticed quite a few honey bees on my lavender blooms. There were around a dozen bees, which is the most I’ve seen near my house. I stood there, with my neighbor, watching them for several minutes. So, now I’m wondering, does somebody have a hive close by? I’m thrilled to see this many after years of seeing none!
I thought my bees were done for the season, so I collected all the filled tubes from the houses and put them in a mesh bag. This is to prevent parasitic wasps and other pest from infiltrating the tubes.
I had no sooner sealed up the back when three of my gals came back to the bee house. They were confused since the unfilled tubes were not arranged the same way (since many filled tubes were missing, taking up less space) and buzzed around the openings, looking for their tube. I felt bad for them, but I’m confident they will figure it out or start a new tube.
I’d rather have a couple of confused bees than those nasty wasps in the tubes!
I still have about a dozen bees working away and filling tubes. Since all the tubes were filled in the first bee house, I went ahead and placed them in a mesh bag so parasites can’t get to them. I also bought a new bee house for the nesting block (which is 75% filled). I’m going to have at least a 1,000 cocoons this year and will be giving at least half of them to Crown Bees. They will then place them in orchards in eastern Washington, helping the farmers with their fruit trees.
It’s a bright, sunny morning and I went outside to check on my bees. I’m starting to find a few dead bees near the nests now. Their wings are tattered and it looks like they just went to sleep after laying their last egg. I know their life cycle is short, but I feel a bit sad since it won’t be long until I stop seeing my buzzing friends until next spring.