Mason bees, solitary bees, osmia , whatever you choose to call them , they are the workhorse of the pollinators. 400 mason bees will out pollinate a colony of honeybees. They will also emerge and fly at temperatures lower than the honeybee therefore the pollination of fruit production is earlier in the season. The mason bee is a solitary bee (not living in a colony to work as one) therefore making it a non aggressive bee. They get there name mason bee by living in hollow reads , holes in wood or man made cardboard tubes. The female will lay an egg at the far end of the tube on a pollen and nectar ball that they have gathered , then seal it off with mud and go thru the hole process again until the tube is full. She will lay female eggs starting at the back of the tube and the last 3 or 4 eggs will be males. That way they will began emerging in reverse order, males first to wait on the females to emerge to breed with in mid march here in central Ohio. The man made tubes for the solitary bee is typically 6" long and will have a total of 7 to 8 cocoons in them. Mason bees should be purchased from the area that you live. There are two species of the blue orchard bee and they are from two different climates. If you live east of the Mississippi you want to get your bees from that area, if you are west of the Mississippi then you want to purchase your bees from there. With the humidity levels of the two areas being so different they probably will not make it.There is also the osmia cornifrons ( Japanese horn faced ) which do very well in this area.
Practically Anyone Can Have Mason Bees
With mason bees being a solitary bee they are not aggressive, therefore the only time you might get stung is if one would get caught up in your clothing. They would rather hide when you go out to watch them. There sting has been described more like a mosquito bite and many mason bee owners have never been stung. A small handful of tubes in a wooden box or piece of 3 " PVC pipe under an overhang facing the south or east will pollinate most gardens.There is no heavy lifting like you will encounter with honeybees and your neighbors will probably not even know that they are there, eliminating the intimidation factor as with honeybees.
Spring /Summer Management
If you choose to purchase either cocoons or tubes filled with cocoons you will have to order them starting in November, as they do not last long and are sold out rather quickly.You will receive your bees in January or February while they are still in the dormant state. They will be shipped priority rate and when you receive them they will need to be refrigerated so they do not warm up and emerge too soon. They should be placed in the crisper drawer along with a damp sponge so they do not dehydrate until you place them out later. The newer refrigerators remove the humidity inside, so the damp sponge or a damp paper towel is important . On or about March 15th here in Ohio with the blooming of the forsythia, crocus and peach trees you will place your mason bees outside. The males will emerge a couple weeks ahead of the females with the warming of the weather. You will need a mud source nearby for the bees to use to seal off egg compartments. Clay is a better source than top soil . Most often your bees will multiply 2 to 4 times in population in a season. There are some predators that you need to watch for including birds and raccoons pulling the tubes out . Ants are also a problem by eating the pollen and nectar and should also be eliminated ahead of time. By mid June you will notice that most of your female workers have died and you will need to store your new crop of bees for next year. A 1/4 inch long parasitic predator wasp also moves in to the area about this time so you will want to move your bees into storage for next year. Carry your tubes very carefully so as not to dislodge the egg from the pollen ball, place the tubes in panty hose to keep out the small predators and store these in a vented box in an out building to keep out the large predators. Mice are your worst predator at this time . Your bees CAN NOT be refrigerated at this time because they need to go thru there metamorphoses. Your bees will need to be left in an unheated garage or shed until fall when they can once again be put in the refrigerator. Some bee owners will leave there bees in this unheated state until put out in the fallowing spring. The lowest safe temperature that mason bees should be left in this unheated state is 5 degrees fahrenheit .
By early fall you can check your tubes for pinholes caused by the parasitic wasp ,or pollen mites and discard damaged cocoons . Some bee owners open there tubes and remove the cocoons, check them for vigor and store them in that state.
Osmia Cornifrons (Japanese Hornface) Bees For Sale
Here at Topview Farm we raise the hornface bee . We are offering filled tubes for sale . . They can be picked up locally by calling (419)560-9250. or email firstname.lastname@example.org