That Time Of Year, Again

It’s the end of October and I’m just harvesting my mason bee cocoons. I usually do it the end of September, but I kept forgetting. After harvesting them, I see that the extra month was actually beneficial. I had a lower percentage of larvae that didn’t develop cocoons. I also noticed that out of the cocoons harvested from the wood blocks, about 1/3 didn’t develop, whereas the tubes with liners only had about 1% of undeveloped cocoons. So, next season, I’ll be putting liners in all the wood blocks to see if it makes a difference. In all, I harvested 484 cocoons. I didn’t see any evidence of parasites this time and no wasps. While the cocoons are drying from their mild bleach wash, I have the wood blocks soaking in a bleach solution after scrubbing them so they’ll be ready in the spring.

 

On another note, mom said that their peach tree did really well this year and she believes that her mason bees were the reason. She’s excited to see what happens this season with the cocoons she’s harvested.

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Drying Cocoons

Fall Harvest

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.

Block & tubes

A partially filled block and a mesh bag of filled tubes.

Cocoons

A partially filled tray with viable cocoons that are separated by the hardened mud plugs.

Larvae

Some of the larvae never spun cocoons and were discarded.

Drying Cocoons

Washed cocoons drying on paper towels.

Nesting Trays

Unstacked nesting trays drying after being scrubbed and disinfected.

Proud Mom!

Yes, I feel like a proud mom! All but about 40 of my harvested cocoons hatched! Watching them first mate, then start laying eggs in the tubes has been so rewarding.

But let me back up a smidge…last fall, my Asian pear trees had produced more fruit than the previous year. Not only that, but the one variety that was typically bland tasting was the sweetest of the three trees! I really believe my bees contributed to a good fruit yield.

I added a nesting block from Crown Bees this year…and the girls have been so busy, I had to just order more tubes and reeds to accommodate them! I just have to find something to put them in (I think my husband needs to make a box for me this weekend).

I also got my neighbor to join in on the fun. She just bought a bee house and tubes, so I gave her a bee attractant cloth…maybe some of my gals will migrate over to her bee home. Crown Bees still has cocoons that need homes, so I ordered more of those, too. I plan to give some to my neighbor to really get her started. The fruit trees have pretty much dropped their blooms, but there are still plenty of flowers (lilac, roses, and others) around for them to continue making bee bread for their brood.

By the looks of things, I think I’ll have twice as many cocoons at last year. I plan to give the extras to Crown Bee (in exchange for nesting materials, maybe).

In preparation for after the bees are done laying eggs, I purchased a net sack to keep out parasites, etc. I also purchased a humidifier for the fridge, that will make it easier to store my cocoons.