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Sunday, March 25, 2012

Mason Bee Houses.

As time is going by, more and more seedling trays are being planted.  We have pepper's, leeks and celery in the vegetable category and many varieties of flowers and herbs growing at this time.  The perennials, rhubarb, and dahlia's are coming along nicely.  
We are busy getting ready for Gardenscape, taking place in Saskatoon March 30, 31 and April 1.  The following photos are houses for Mason Bee's, which we will have available to purchase at Gardenscape.  A Mason Bee is a solitary bee that lays it eggs in tubular cavities.  It is 70% more efficient at pollinating than a Honey Bee.  The Orchard Mason Bee appears black but is actually dark metallic green/blue in color. The female is approximately 14 mm in length, robust in appearance resembling a black fly. The male is smaller and more slender, and about 11-12 mm in length. Males are characterized by their long antennae and a tuft of light colored hair in the front of the head. At rest, the bee has its wings flush with its body. Osmia bees are effective pollinators because of their pubescence or hairiness. This enables them to carry pollen grains from flower to flower, causing pollination to take place. 

Mason Bee houses available in Cedar or natural Poplar.

The female Mason bee lives for about one month in the spring and she can produce one or two eggs a day. One tubular nest contain 7 - 11 cells where those laid first, in the back of the tube will develop into females while the few cells nearest to the entrance will be males.  When sufficient food has been deposited an egg is laid and the cell is sealed with a thin mud plug. The whole process is repeated for each egg and cell she creates until the tube is filled close to its entrance. Often the last cell is left empty to discourage predators. The tube is then closed with a thick mud plug at the entrance.  
A few days after the egg has been laid, the larva will hatch and will start feeding on the nectar and pollen reserves. The larva grows very rapidly and after 10 - 14 days most food reserves have been consumed. The larva will spin a cocoon and pupate. Later in the summer, the pupa will develop into an adult and will stay in the cell throughout the winter.
In early spring when the first warm days occur, male Mason Bees will first emerge. They chew their way through the mud plug with their strong mandibles. The males will stay near the tubular nests and wait for females to emerge. As soon as females appear, the males will attempt to mate. There is fierce competition between males and sometimes, a female is covered by a number of struggling males.

Closeup of the holes we drilled in the cedar wood blocks and the natural poplar logs for the Mason Bees.

Mason or Osmia Bees need access to mud. If a source is readily available near the nests, the females can be spared a great deal of time and labor. A patch of soil can be kept moist or a small bucket or tray can be filled with wetted soil.  Face nesting blocks as close to the southeast direction as possible to catch morning sun and affix it firmly so that it does not sway in the wind. It should be located at least three feet above the ground. 

The Orchard Mason Bee

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