Beginner’s Guide To Mason Bees — The Super Pollinator

Where are they found in the US?

  • North America is home to over 140 different mason bee species and for the most part, they’re found throughout the United States. Compared to honeybees, which were first imported on hives by the Europeans to the US, this bee species is native to the US. The most common type is called Osmia lignaria. Osmia lignaria has two common names: the “orchard mason bee” and the “blue mason bee”. This bee is most commonly found in the north end of the west coast, but regardless of the region you’re from, mason bees are considered some of the best native, efficient pollinators amongAmerican bees.

How Can You Distinguish It From Other Bees?

  • Compared to your typical honeybee, they are smaller in size. Color-wise, they have a metallic blue or green sheen to their shell — some folks may go as far as to describe them as blue-black. In very rare cases, you may also find “red mason bees”.

What is the typical size?

  • Though the size of the mason bee is determined by the hole it was reared in, the average size is between 3/8 to 5/8 inches. Addition male bees are recorded to be smaller than their female equivalents.

Are They Dangerous?

  • While females do have stingers, they are generally more gentle temperament-wise. The only specific situations a female would sting is if she is being cornered or squeezed — both rare occurrences unless a witless gardener antagonizes the bees. One reason why they don’t sting that much compared to their honeybee counterparts is because of their non-social nature as well as a lack of a social hierarchy.

How to Attract Mason Bees to My House?

  • In the wild, mason bees typically build their nest in whatever nook or cranny they can find, and preferably, near other mason bees for mating convenience. These nests are typically layered with mud with slots available for eggs and nectar/pollen as sustenance for the baby. If you want a perfect way to introduce them into your garden, you need to provide a similar type of housing such as a Mason Bee House.

How Does a Mason Bee House Work?

  • A mason bee house emulates optimal and natural nesting conditions, typically consisting of holes of varying widths. Factory-made bee houses are usually a series of holes enclosed in a wooden box, however, some gardeners choose to make their own as a fun DIY project. The most premium houses include bamboo tubes, cardboard tubes of wood, pull apart wooden blocks, and lake reeds. Keep in mind a couple of things: the size of the hole is important — too big and parasitic wasps can prey on your bees, too small and you won’t be able to disinfect or clean the nest. Second, because they are all-natural and don’t contain toxic glues and stains they will only last a couple of seasons at best so you will need to replace them. Some types of housing, such as drilled wooden blocks, must be remade every year as they are not viable for cleaning. Like any other type of animal, mason bees also have a variety of diseases, parasites, and mites that can afflict damage on them. No worries they are affordable and with some effort can be built DIY.

When Should You Hang it? and How?

  • You should consider hanging it up in the spring as mason bees emerge from their cocoons in the early spring. One thing special about their life cycle is their hibernation period. While mason bees lay their eggs in the late spring and the eggs hatch in a few days, the baby larvae stay inside their cocoons until next year’s spring.
  • When setting up your Mason Bee house, we suggest setting it up at eye level. This way, it is easy to inspect the house as well as to look into it. For most bee houses, we also suggest setting them up off the ground, except for loose nesting materials such as lake reeds. If you have loose nesting materials, it is better to set them somewhere on the ground within your garden; studies have shown that female mason bees use sight markers to find their nests and setting loose nesting materials will help them locate their nests faster and more conveniently.

Care and Maintenance

  1. Providing the resources necessary for your mason bees to prosper.
  2. Housecleaning in the autumn.

How Do You Clean Them?

Can Masonry Bees Damage Walls?

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