Mason bees are very welcome garden guests across the globe. Why might you ask? Mason bees are quite docile compared to other bee species. Male mason bees do not have stingers, and females only sting when they feel they are in danger – if they are squeezed or trapped. Since mason bees are so docile, they pose little to no threat of stinging while living in your garden. Furthermore, if you were to be stung by a mason bee it would be more akin to a mosquito bite, rather than a typical bee sting.
Mason bees do not produce honey or beeswax, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t useful and important to have around, in their own way! Mason bees are expert pollinators. They carry pollen on their stomachs instead of their legs, protecting the pollen from water or any other natural disturbances. This allows more pollen to be transported from plant to plant. Mason bees are also quite tough in comparison to honey bees.
Mason bees can be encouraged to live in your garden through something called a bee house! Bee houses are manmade structures which are similar to a bird house. Bee houses have wooden or cardboard tubes stacked on top of one another inside them, simulating where mason bees would build their nests in the wild. Mason bees do not build their own nests; rather they find small cavities to lay their eggs inside. Typically they will lay their eggs in woodpecker holes, plant stems, and other insect holes while in nature. The ideal bee house for your new bee friends should have removable or cleanable tubes. This prevents mites such as pollen mites from infesting your bees. Access to mud is also important, as that is how the female bee will seal off the tubes once she has nested. When hanging your bee house you can either nail it to a fence, a large tree, or on the side of your home. Bees will not use the home if it hangs off of a tree branch as they do not like the change in currents.
Mason bees can also be purchased and introduced to your garden. Should you choose to purchase mason bee cocoons to introduce into your garden there are a few things to keep in mind. When you receive the mason bees, they must be kept in your fridge’s crisper drawer. The fridge should be kept around 4°C. If kept above 4°C the males may emerge while still in the fridge, and if kept any cooler the bees could freeze. If the male bees begin to emerge, you must keep the bees fed. This can be done by placing a cotton ball soaked in equal parts water and sugar. Humidity inside the fridge needs to be around 60% or higher for optimal storage. The ideal humidity percentage is between 60 – 70%. Any lower and the bees may not survive. To prevent mould growth, the container the bees are kept in should be well ventilated.
Mason bees should be released by May 1st, as this is when they are best acclimatised to the weather. They can be kept in the fridge a little longer, but they may emerge sluggish if you wait too long. Daytime temperatures should be around 10 – 13°C before the bees should be released, and blossoms should be about 10% open before release as this ensures there is food available for the bees. Dandelions are a good indicator that it is time for the bees to be released as they are a favourite food source.
Mason Bees are an excellent addition to your garden. Not only do they help with pollination and the overall wellbeing of your garden, but they are also absolutely fascinating to help and watch grow. For more information on mason bees, and to learn about other beneficial bugs visit your local Garden Gallery. We’d be happy to help you learn more!