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.
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.
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.
Another gorgeous day…and another morning of watching my bees at work. Once again, I laid on the porch just to watch my lovely ladies. Besides being fascinating to watch, there’s something peaceful and soothing about laying there as the buzz of their wings surround me on their way to the nesting tubes. Where once they stopped to check me out, they now ignore me and go about their business…I think they are quite used to me being a voyeur.
A bee backs into her tube to lay an egg.
I noticed that just since yesterday, almost all the tubes in the bottom portion of the one house is filled. I’m also glad I put more tubes in the house roof and filled a coffee can with more…the girls are already making use of them. I have a feeling that I may need to get more tubes, knowing the bees still have about a month to go with their nesting ritual, before they die. I have another house coming in the mail…I just need to get more tubes.
I have a light work schedule today, so I went out the front porch and laid down to watch my mason bee gals at work. I could have stayed there all day, they’re so fascinating to watch! They pretty much ignored me and kept working. Some would fly into a tube, put down bee bread, then emerge from the tube, only to back in to lay an egg. I captured much of the action on these videos.