Mason Bee House Giveaway!
Giveaway time! I love doing giveaways, and this is one of my favorite things to give to my readers because I love mason bee so much. Read on to find out why. 🙂 If you love bees you may also be interested in my series on America’s Bee Crisis.
Mason Bee House Giveaway!
Mason bees are gentle, native spring bees that are champion pollinators. If you have any orchard fruit trees or blueberry bushes on your property, these are the gals you want to have. Mason bees carry pollen in coarse hairs on their bellies, which is about as messy and sloppy as it sounds, so they are extremely effective pollinators. You will enjoy incredible fruit set on your spring flowering trees and shrubs with these hard workers on the job!
Mason bees are also ideal for households with young children or bee/wasp allergies as they are very gentle. Since they are solitary bees with no queen, brood, or honey stores to protect they are not aggressive at all. Whether they are capable of piercing our flesh or delivering venom I’m not sure of, but there are no reports of mason bee stings that I can find online or in any book, and they have no ability to swarm. I have had them land on me, and even held them in my hands without incident. When my boys were little they loved being held up to watch the bees going in and out of their holes.
Mason bees emerge from cocoons in very early spring and mate. The females then find a hole to lay eggs in. Each female works tirelessly to collect pollen and nectar that she forms into a sticky mass. When it is large enough she lays an egg on it and then builds a mud wall to seal it off in a protected chamber. Then she starts the process over again. She will continue doing this until there are a series of cells separated by mud walls, each one containing a pollen lump and egg. The end of the hole is sealed with a thick mud plug to protect her brood. She continues filling holes in this way until she dies, several weeks after her emergence, if she is lucky.
Inside the mud cells her eggs hatch and the larvae begin consuming the pollen lump. They eat and eat, growing as they do, until all the pollen is consumed, and then spin a cocoon. Inside the cocoon they will undergo a metamorphosis, their soft bodies rearranging into an adult bee with a hard exoskeleton. It is now fall and the adult bees enter hibernation and spend the winter snug in their cocoons. Next spring they chew their way out to start the lifecycle anew.
You can be part of this lifecycle by providing the mason bee an appropriately sized hole to lay her eggs in (5/16″ wide and 6″ deep), plus flowers for pollen and nectar, and mud to build her walls. When considering keeping mason bees at home, it is vital that you make sure to use materials that promote healthy populations and discourage parasites and disease. Good mason bee stewardship requires you to inspect your cocoons in the fall or winter and discard any that are contaminated by pollen mites or chalkbrood, or parasitized by the Monodontomerus wasp.
The mason bee home that I find easiest to maintain and most affordable is a stacking tray system. Trays with grooves stack together to form a block of holes just the size a mason bee wants to use. At the end of the season you take the trays apart and the cocoons will fall out. It is easy to isolate any grooves that show signs of infection for proper handling. Then give the trays a good scrub in hot water, let them dry, and reassemble for use again next spring.
I have used both plastic and wood trays and find that the bees show a decided preference for natural materials, and also that the wooden trays are less prone to mold issues, plus the Monodontomerus wasp seems to have more trouble penetrating a wood block with her ovipositer than a plastic one. Crown Bees is my favorite source of mason bee supplies due to their high quality materials, commitment to education, and pledge to sell cocoons only to those geographic areas that they are adapted to (i.e. no sending California bees to Minnesota, and vice versa).
My mason bees houses are so healthy and successful that at the end of each season I find I have more cocoons than I know what to do with, even after sharing them with friends and family! Fortunately Crown Bees is happy to take these excess cocoons off of my hands as part of their Bee Buyback program. They get more healthy cocoons to sell to home gardeners and commercial orchards, and I get store credit to purchase supplies.
Utilizing this program, I am able to offer my readers a chance to win one of two complete mason bee kits. These kits come with everything you need to get started and you will never have to purchase any more materials! If you win you can choose from two house styles: a chalet (pictured at top) or cottage (pictured below). Both are made of untreated cedar, and include untreated pine trays. Read more about them here.
To enter please use the Rafflecopter widget below. Contest is open to U.S. residents only. Contest runs 2/27/15 – 3/2/15. Two winners will be chosen randomly on 3/3/15. Good luck everybody! 🙂
Congratulations to Becky K. and Shar M., winners of the raffle! If you did not win, you can still get 10% off your Crown Bees purchase with the coupon code “killerpickles”. Hooray for spring! 🙂
I don’t have any affiliation with Crown Bees and they did not provide these prizes. Prizes will be purchased with my own store credit that I earned through their Bee Buyback Program.