What To Do
Updated: Dec 4, 2020
ORCHARD MASON BEES
Orchard Mason Bees are very effective pollinators for early flowering fruit and nut trees as well as other early flowering trees and shrubs. They are one of the first bees to come out of hibernation and are active during this flowering period when pollination is required. It has been said that one Orchard Mason Bee will do the work of 1600 honeybees. These highly efficient pollinators are also totally non-aggressive.
Once you have decided to use Orchard Mason Bees as pollinators there are a few things you will want to remember. Once outside temperatures are consistently above 50 degrees or flower buds have begun to swell, place bees with new nesting material outside as near as possible to the trees you are trying to pollinate. These bees will only fly about 100 yards in search of food (nectar and pollen). If the outside temperature is below 50 degrees store your bees in an unheated garage or shed until temps warm up. You can also slow down their emergence by refrigerating them to about 40 degrees if necessary (be aware that refrigerators tend to dry them out so make sure you keep the humidity up while using this procedure). You can also speed up their emergence by keeping them indoors for a couple days after removing them from refrigeration. They have been in a hibernated state for several months and may be slow to emerge. Be patient.
There are a number of different types of nesting materials to choose from. Check with your local nursery to see what they recommend for your area. Regardless of which nesting material you decide to use, the most important thing to remember is to provide a clean nesting environment every year.
Place the bee house on a secure structure, (house, barn, or shed) on a south or east-facing wall under an eave to protect them from the rain. Orchard Mason Bees need that warm morning sun to start their day. Also make sure that there is wet soil (mud) nearby. The bees require this mud for their nesting chambers. Bees under good conditions should reproduce about 5 times their number in one year (average is closer to 3 times). The nesting process is complete in about 2 months, after which bee house should be covered with a fine screen, (old panty hose works great) to protect them from birds and other insects.
After the 1st of October bees will be fully developed and can either remain where they are or be moved to an unheated garage or out building. If you live in a part of the country where summer temperatures are above 90 degrees for an extended period of time, you may want to gently move your bees to a shadier location out of the direct sunlight. Here are a couple other things to keep in mind. While storing bees for the winter be conscience of mice, I would also suggest not feeding birds with feeders while bees are active.
Next spring the process starts all over again. Have fun with your bees. You will benefit from their pollination and they are fun and interesting to watch.
Things to remember:
1. Mason Bees require mud for nesting. Make sure there is some type of mud close by.
2. Be cautious around the area under the bee house while the bees are emerging as they fall to the ground during mating.
3. Do not use Fungicides or Pesticides while bees are active.