Saturday Series BEE Happy In The Garden!


Saturday, February 6, 2016

Many gardeners consider the non-aggressive mason bee to be their secret weapon throughout the growing season.

Prolific pollinators, the Orchard Mason Bee emerges from small reeds or holes in a mason bee nursery early in the spring when daytime temperatures reach about 50 degrees. The male mason bees emerge first and stay close to the nest site waiting for the female bees to come out.

When the females make their way out, the first thing they do is mate. This ensures their survival into the next season and beyond. Soon after mating, the males die and the females start working on their nests for the year. They begin by finding a suitable hole and then gathering pollen and nectar from nearby flowers as food for their young.

The pollen is deposited into the back of the nest hole, one bit at a time until a stockpile is gathered, then the bee lays an egg on top of the acquired mass.

The female mason bee can actually decide the sex of each egg being laid, and she almost always lays female eggs in the deepest, and safest part of the hole. Next, she gathers mud to make a partition in the hole for protection and to mark the start of the next nesting pod. She continues this process for a few weeks until her natural death.

By summer, the eggs have hatched and the young larvae survive on the food stores left by the mother. Each larva begins to spin itself in a web to hibernate in throughout the fall and winter months and then makes the complete transformation into a bee in the spring.

When the bees wake up, they make their way out of the mud cells with a puff of dust and start the entire wonderful process all over again.

Orchard Mason Bees are amazing pollinators. Unlike honey bees that have leg pockets for pollen storage, a mason bee must store pollen into stiff hairs on her abdomen. This less sophisticated method leads to a much better pollination result. As she collects the pollen at each flower and then tries to stuff pollen into the hairs, some of the pollen previously collected inevitably falls out and pollinates the flower.

While a honey bee typically pollinates about five percent of the flowers it visits in a day, it is estimated a mason bee pollinates a whopping ninety five percent. Just 250 mason bees can do the work of 25,000 honey bees.

Add these powerhouse pollinators to your own garden today with one of our mason bee nurseries.