Mason bees  (2011)  by Mary

While searching the web for information on honey bees, I stumbled on mason bees, sometimes called orchard bees because they are one of the first pollinators out at the time orchards are blooming. They don't make honey, but pollinate, with a side job of providing entertainment. Not much on TV, so we placed an order. They arrived before the honey bees, and in twelve cardboard tubes about the size of magic markers. Instructions said to put them in the refrigerator to be taken out to warm up at about the time the orchards bloomed. 

These gentle, blue-black metallic bees come out, mate, the male dies, (seems all he is good for), and the female goes off and does the important work. She collects a small ball of nectar, returns to the nesting tube, lays an egg on the ball of nectar and seals the cell off with mud. She continues this until she fills the whole tube and then caps it off with more mud. This going in and out is what people enjoy watching. Like I said, "Nothing on TV."  Her job done, she dies.

During the summer, the eggs turn into larvae, find themselves sitting on top of a free lunch, make cocoons, and become new adults resting in the cells. They stay dormant as they go into hibernation, and the cycle begins again next spring with the males coming out first, waiting for the females, and you know the rest.

In the meantime, Todd fashioned two mason bee houses for me, and I drilled the holes. It was my first time to use a drill, except in the garbage cans for compost barrels, and I had been wanting to do it for a long time. It snowed on the houses right off, but still, we were prepared.  

When it was orchard blooming time, Todd mounted the houses we made earlier, and put the tubes close so when the bees came out they would know where to return. He didn't see any action. We came on the weekend, and I went outside to see where he attached one of the homes onto the house. I got to be the first one to see an orchard bee flying in and out! We all gathered around to watch. Just like TV.   

Two mason bee houses. We were prepared.

Mounted on the house.

                                                                                                           kitchen garden

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