May 26, 2011

New Mason Bees

Two males emerged inside the shipping container. This little guy surprised us.
Our mason bees had been busy filling their bee chalet when the temperatures jumped into the 80s, much too hot for the little black cuties. Then as if a switch were flipped, the rain started and just fell and fell and fell. Four inches of rain this month, about a third of our annual total, and that was it for the masons. Six tubes were filled. Not bad, but I was sad that they were done already. I miss my bees.

So I was pretty excited when High Country Gardens offered a Twitter special, cocoons at half-price. They probably were close-outs because the cocoons are old and their viability is questionable. The male in the picture broke out of hibernation on the UPS truck and made quick work of his cocoon. There was even a hole chewed through the zip-top bag, allowing him and a brother to roam free inside the shipping container.

An enclosed pamphlet says, "Mason Bees are excellent early-spring pollinators and, because they tend not to sting, are great additions to any garden. They’re so effective — 120 times more effective than honey bees! — because they have a lot of hair on their body which picks up pollen. Unlike honeybees, which clean themselves after each visit to a flower and store the pollen in sacs to carry back to the colony, the Mason Bees carry all of their pollen from flower to flower. Mason Bees are referred to as solitary bees because they do not have a social order like honey bees and bumble bees. They do not have a queen or a hive and they do not make honey. However, they are perfectly happy making a nest right next to each other. Mason Bees are active in colder temperatures, which makes them very effective in orchards or home gardens pollinating fruit trees."

The rain has stopped but, despite the Mile High sun, it remains cool, so I hope these late-season bees will prosper. Stay tuned...

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