Here’s Everything you Need To Know About Mason Bees

Out of all the bee species that roam the earth, the ones called Mason bees are known as ones of the most excellent at pollinating fruit.

Infact here’s a study showcasing that;  Supplementing small farms with native mason bees increases strawberry size and growth rate.

Also known as orchard bees. Mason bees being a member of the genus osmia. They have lot in common with leafcutter bees, a member of the genus Megachile. Including the fact that they both nest in holes and transport pollen on their bellies rather than on their hind legs.

In this blog, we will go over everything you need to know about the Mason Bees.

1. Honey bees vs Mason bees

The key difference between Honey bees and Mason bees is that the latter don’t make honey. Additionally, Mason bees tend to hunt for pollen near the nest, in contrast to honeybees.

Mason bees are more successful pollinators than honeybees; they outperform honey bees at pollinating flowering trees and plants. It takes 40000 honeybees to perform the same task as 400 female mason bees since mason bees are such efficient pollinators.

Mason Bees Are More Efficient Pollinators Than Honey Bees!

Also, The manner in which honeybees and mason bees acquire pollen is different. The pollen gathered by honeybees is kept in pouches on their back legs, while Mason bees collect pollens all over their body, mainly on their scopa because nectar often gets trapped over their hairy bodies.

Mason bees are exceptional pollinators and equally valuable to people, even though it is unquestionably pleasant to harvest honey from a honey bee hive.

2. Fun Facts About Mason Bees

2.1 Unique Look

In apperance mason bees are tiny bees that resemble sweat bees. Although they resemble honeybees in form, they are smaller in size.

The osmia family contains more than 300 species, all of which resemble one another in aesthetics. However, the native bees of North America have a slight variation in their coloring.

The native bees of north America have a slight variation in their color; they have a rusty red tint on their backs, whereas most mason bees are black with Metallica blue-green color.

Their shiny blue-green and black coloring makes them look more majestic than charming. Some individuals of this species also have rusty-red backs compared to the more common blue-green ones.

2.2 Why does these Bee Snooze at Night?

At the entrance to their nest tunnels, mason bees snooze at night. If you shine a light into unplugged tubes or crevices, you might be able to see the female mason bee’s eyes if you have a nest there.

Source: Depositphotos

2.3 Orchard Mason Bees Can Fly at High Speeds It can be speculated that they can fly at a relatively high speed for such a small creature because they are known for pollinating trees like fruits and other types of plants at a high rate of speed.

Mason bees can fly more or less at the same pace as honey bees, which is roughly 15 mph.

2.4 Orachard Mason Bees Tunneling Activity

As native bees, the bees don’t build their nests in colonies. They search for openings in the wooden building left by other bees or insects and gaps between stones.

The female bees went further through softwood material or loose masonry construction to make nesting tunnels. These passages may allow water to enter the structure, which could cause some weakening or dampness.

Mason bees live in the existing holes rather than drilling new ones, unlike the carpenter bees, which drill holes and build tunnels.

This process of Mason bees building their tunnels and nests could result in structural problems in houses if left unchecked; however, this is highly common.

3. Managing Mason Bee’s Lifecycle

In the bee nest, a mason bee egg begins its life cycle. A few days after the female lays the egg, the bee develops.

Lifespan of the Mason bee is just one month. Fully developed adult bees stay in the cocoon throughout the winter. The bees emerge out of the cocoon only in the first few weeks of spring.

The mason larva consumes the pollen that the female had placed in the nesting tubes. The caterpillar builds a cocoon and spends the winter in the nest after ten days.

The adult mason bee begins to emerge when the temperature hits 55°F (13°C) in the spring. In the early spring, male eggs are laid first, followed by females at the back of the nest. Male emerge first and wait for the appearance of females before starting to mate.

Three to four days after mating, the female stores the semen and begins to build her nest. She will make a nest and lay her eggs in an existing hole.

The female bees start with their unique mudding activity. Only the eggs she wants to produce for girls are fertilized with the semen; the remaining eggs will develop into male mason bees.

With enough pollen for the larva to eat and progress to the pupal stage, they will spin a cocoon and pupate inside the cell in ten days. These Blue orchard bees are native pollinators.

Mason bee females live for around 30 days after leaving their nest in the early spring. Mason bees lay one or two eggs per day.

They frequently build a new nest nearby or in the same nest from which they exited to lay their eggs. Male Mason bees have a shorter lifespan than females and mate with females.

Source: Depositphotos

4. Process Involved In Keeping Mason Bees

4.1 Choosing a Bee House

Choosing a bee house involves enough space for cocoon release and protection, whether setting up your bee habitat to draw bees or to house the bees you’ve already bought.

The most frequently used bee houses are the Mason bee house square and a chalet bee house.

4.2 Setting up Blue Orchard Mason Bee House

The first step is determining where to hang your mason bee house once you have it. Mason bee house should be hung 6 to 7 feet off the ground, preferably beneath an eave of a home, garage, shed, or another shelter.

If this isn’t an option, pick a housing plan like the bee works kit with bees that offers sufficient protection from the elements on its own. These can be hung on a wall in your home or a shed.

It is advisable to hang a bee house to receive sun exposure to the south or southeast as bees are ectothermic. They draw their heat from their environment and require morning sun.

But for them to fly, their body temperature must be higher than 90°F. They do this by baking in the sun and vigorously vibrating their muscles of flight.

4.3 Nesting Tubes and Tunnels

The next step is to provide the bee house with nesting trays or tubes. Although some individuals use solid wooden structures with drilled holes for nesting, this kind of habitat does not permit the harvesting of cocoons.

After being used for several seasons, the spots frequently develop a considerable buildup of debris and illness. To preserve bee health and numbers for the next year, we advise choosing nesting tubes or blocks that can be opened for harvesting, cleaning, and storing your cocoons after the season.

Cardboard tubes with or without a paper insert homemade paper tubes and hollow reeds are a few alternatives for tubes to utilize. The tubes need to be changed when cocoons are extracted. For your bees to completely shut off their development chambers inside the tubes or hollow reeds you’ll also need to ensure the appropriate nesting materials are accessible.

Mason bees need mud that has a thick, clay-like texture. You can buy bags of clay mud to mix and spread out for your bees if this is not something that naturally occurs in your area. You should moisten the dirt periodically because they are sensitive to its moisture content.

To draw leafcutter bees, you must provide them with material to cut from leaves or flower petals and bring back to the nest. Pea plants, roses, lilacs, and dahlias appear to be their favorites.

You should consider giving blue orchard mason bees access to plenty of food and nesting materials within a 300-foot radius of their hive. As generalist foragers, mason bees and leafcutter bees collect nectar and pollen from various flowers.

To ensure that the animals have access to food throughout their seasons, give a range of plants with staggered flowering times. Finally, we advise staying away from hybrid plants. These typically yield less nectar and pollen, so your bees won’t have a high-quality diet.

Source: Depositphotos

5. Attracting Mason Bees

Native plants are the greatest for attracting local bees! Native bees are most significant at gathering nectar and pollen from those blooms because they have spent thousands of years.

The ideal plants to use for including bee feed in your habitat are native ones. Avoid hybrid plants as much as you can to attract mason bees because they offer less nectar and pollen to your bees.

We also advise planting plants with staggered blooming times to give mason bees as much time as possible to forage throughout the season.

6. Purchase Of Mason Bees

You have a choice between luring nearby bees or purchasing mason bee cocoons. But keep in mind to order fast because most mason bee suppliers quickly run out of stock!

Self-attraction of neighborhood bees is surprisingly easy to do. Place a few nesting tubes outside in a dry, enclosed area. Make sure there is a source of damp, clay-rich mud nearby and various flowers and plants. Mason bees are likely to visit if you create a pleasant nesting area with the necessary features.

It’s time to welcome the local pollinators to their new home once your house is set up! Local breeders and reputable nurseries sell cocoons for alfalfa leafcutter and blue orchard mason bees.

Buying cocoons and applying an attractant at the same time is advisable because doing so can entice even more neighbourhood bees to your home. When the local temperature consistently rises above 50°F, mason bee cocoons can be released.

Leave enough space above the tubes, set the cocoons there, or place them on a ledge close to the habitat. Adult bees are likely to move in when they emerge conveniently close to a prime nesting location.

Two waves of release are advisable. When the ideal temperature is reached, the first half should be released, and the second half should follow two weeks later. Your spring pollination season will be extended. As a result, you are improving your garden’s production. You can keep your cocoons in the refrigerator until you’re ready to release the second round.

Mason bee males emerge first because they are smaller than females. After collecting nectar, they return to the nesting area to wait for the females. Make sure you have little than giant cocoons before releasing some of your population. This will guarantee that your ladies have access to enough males to mate with.


Mason Bees Are A Gardener’s Best Friend | Oregon Field Guide

7. Harvesting Of Mason Bees At Season’s End

When tunnels are covered in muck, the mason bee season is done. By the start of summer, this frequently occurs. To avoid predation and parasitism, you can choose to transfer capped and sealed tubes into a safe and breathable bag.

This bag should be kept warm and away from distractions. If not, keep the boxes filled and undisturbed until the fall cocoon harvest. Even though your bees might survive on their own and awaken when the new season starts, to stop the spread of parasites and diseases, harvesting and cleaning cocoons are the best way out.

Pull open the tubes or nesting blocks to extract the nesting components. Next, separate the detritus from the cocoons. You don’t want your bees to wake up early after being placed in a heated house, so be sure to do this in a cold location! Any c-shaped cocoons should be quickly separated since chalkbrood, a disease caused by fungus spores, is likely present in these.

In a cold water bath, clean the cocoons. If any chalkbrood was discovered, destroy the fungus spores by adding 1/4 cup of bleach per gallon of water. All cocoons that float in the bath should be removed and thrown away. Look out for cocoons with tiny openings.

These should be kept from healthy bees since wasps might have parasitized them.

Then, with roughly 60 to 70 percent humidity, cocoons can be kept in the refrigerator between 30 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Cocoons can be observed all winter until temperatures rise above 50 degrees F. They can then be set outside near their nest to start a new season.

Early summer, when the tunnels of your nesting tubes are covered in muck, marks the beginning and end of the mason bee season. Gather your nesting reeds or tubes and place them cap-side up in a safe, breathable bag. A warm environment should be used to keep them until the fall cocoon harvest.

You can wait until fall to remove your tubes from their bee housing, but your cocoons will be more vulnerable to sickness and parasites.

When fall comes, split or crack apart your tubes to separate the light-grey, rectangular cocoons from the nesting material. To prevent your bees from waking up early, perform this action in a cool setting.

Place the cocoons in a bath of room temperature water with a drop of bleach for 50 seconds or less if they appear to be covered in mites (looking like sawdust). Throw away any cocoons that don’t float and any that have a c shape (which indicates a fungal spore disease called chalkbrood).

Dry your cocoons gently, and then keep them in your refrigerator for the winter in a ventilated container (we suggest a paper bag or cardboard box). Every few weeks, feel free to add a damp paper towel for moisture to prevent the cocoons from drying out. The optimal temperature and humidity are between 30 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

Watch this video for more information on gardeners’ pet-friendly solitary mason bees.

Closing Thoughts

To conclude, Mason bees do not threaten the environment or humans. One of the best methods to help local ecosystems by collect pollen and boost the harvests of your fruit trees and garden is to raise native bee populations

So, if you can maintaining and managing mason bees in your fram can be great for everyone. Providing habitat and forage is simple and incredibly rewarding to keep mason and leafcutter bees and draw other native pollinators. Additionally, maintaining mason bees is an excellent method to increase the biodiversity of your garden.

Frequently Asked Question

1. What are Solitary bees?

Mason is solitary like most native bees because they live alone. This implies that each one tends to its brood rather than having a queen and worker bees. They cheerfully construct their nests next to one another while they enjoy the companionship of other creatures of their kind.

2.  Why the Orchard Mason Bee is called Gardeners Best Pet?

The gentle and barely stinging spring mason bees make excellent companions. Mason bees build their nests in the type of natural cavities, such as hollow trees or wood tubes, and line the holes with mud, clay, and plant tissue after stuffing them with pollen, nectar, and other plant resources to feed their larvae, which aids in pollinating the plants.

The larvae are hidden in their cocoons during the summer and winter before mason bees emerge from their nest in the spring; they spend a whole year as hidden larvae they parent mason bee house.


Last Updated on by alishbarehman


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