It's not a Honey Bee...
Mason Bees... gentle and amazing pollinators. We were always talking about having bees but in our current location it is not reasonable for us to start a hive of Honey bees so we researched a bit and stumbled upon Mason bees.
The Mason Bee is a very productive pollinator for spring flowers, fruits, and nuts. Which is great for us since we grow all of them. The female carries pollen on the underside of her hairy abdomen, and then scrapes the pollen off within her nesting hole. Because the pollen is carried dry on her hair, it falls off easily as she moves among flowers. This results in more pollinated flowers then the Honey bee, who wets the pollen and sticks it to her legs during transport to the hive. The Mason Bee, who efficiently gathers pollen and nectar on the same visit, is also an awesome cross-pollinator. She busily flits back and forth between branches or trees, instead of focusing on stripping pollen and nectar from one source. A little variety makes any job more interesting!
All Mason Bees are solitary, meaning each female is a queen who does all of the chores. She can’t gather pollen/nectar, lay eggs, gather mud, AND defend her hole… so she doesn’t. The Mason Bee is extremely gentle and allows you to confidently get inches from her nesting hole without fear of being stung.
It doesn’t take much money or time to raise Mason Bees. Nesting material, housing, and bees are quite affordable, and are available in a variety of price ranges. Also, there is no need for protective gear or expensive equipment.
I actually found this little Mason Bee house at our local Home Improvement store for under $20. In terms of time, plan about 15 minutes to select a location and set up your house. Warning! When your bees emerge and start pollinating, you’ll have to set aside time to observe them. Time flies as you watch them laying eggs for next season’s bees!
In the fall, allow about 30 minutes to harvest the cocoons and store them for the winter. In just 1 to 2 hours a year of your time, you’ll get a healthy garden yield and amazing garden companions.
A bonus is that each year you should typically double your bee cocoons from the number you started with. In order to steadily increase the Mason Bee population across North America.
I hope you guys enjoyed our little article on Mason Bees. This is the first year we have them and it has been fun watching them fly between the blooming tree branches.