Mason Bees emerging and mating on my porch April 2012

Discussion in 'Mason & other alternative bees' started by Omie, Apr 21, 2012.

  1. Omie

    Omie New Member

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    [video=youtube;JxdwuHQLboQ]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JxdwuHQLboQ[/video]

    In this video I describe what is going on at the nesting site on my porch. We have a new nesting box put up, with a capacity of 450 nesting straws, each of which can accommodate 4-6 cocoons.
    Many male horn faced mason bees are the first to emerge this Spring and are impatiently waiting for the females to emerge. Males emerge first, females can take up to about 2 weeks before they all emerge. There are also blue orchard bees nesting here. Last years nesting tubes with cocoons are in the bags to the left, while the new clean nesting straws are in the box ready for the females to lay in this year.
    Sorry about the occasional wind noise in the video.
     
  2. jim314

    jim314 New Member

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    Very interesting, thank you.
     

  3. HisPalette

    HisPalette New Member

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    Enjoyed this very much. A very curious and friendly mason bee patrolling our deck got us hooked on the idea of keeping honey bees...3 summers ago... now look at us! Just curious, is it my imagination or do they chase away wasps and flies, too? ours seem to.
     
  4. G3farms

    G3farms New Member

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    What size are the tubes and where do you get them?

    I thought I read somewhere that over the winter you put them in the refrigerator or freezer to help kill the mites that get on them?
     
  5. gunsmith

    gunsmith New Member

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    X rated bee videos. Shame on you Omie. (just kidding :thumbsup:) Great video, thanks for posting. I didn't realize that mason bees do not mate in flight.
     
  6. Omie

    Omie New Member

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    I get my (standard sized) nesting tubes and liners these days from Dave at crownbees.com
    I put my cocoons in the fridge veggie drawer over the winter not to kill any mites on them (it wouldn't work) but to keep them safe from predators like wasps or mice and dangers like ice, soaking rain (which would encourage mold or fungus), and really awful sub zero weather. In the fridge they will be an ideal 35-45F degrees and the humidity will be fairly constant.

    Gunsmith- better avert your eyes! lol!
     
  7. G3farms

    G3farms New Member

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    I knew you put them int he frig or something for some reason :thumbsup:
     
  8. Hobie

    Hobie New Member

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    This is fascinating! If you put the used, empty tubes in the freezer, could they be re-used? Or is it just not worth the trouble?

    Do you move the box of nesting tubes to another location later, or do they live on your porch?
     
  9. Omie

    Omie New Member

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    Hobie, By the time the used paper tube liners have spent 9 months in the fridge drawer with the bees inside, they are somewhat yucky...bee poop inside, a bit of mildew, chewed, etc. I can re-use the heavy cardboard tubes, and I buy paper straw liners that go inside the cardboard tubes. I'ts the paper liners that get tossed and replaced each year.
    The wood box stays on the porch, the tubes get taken inside in the Fall and stored in the fridge.
    The bees don't actually 'live' in the box. Solitary mason bees don't live in hives or even in colonies. They don't have a 'home hive' with a complex society the way honeybees do. They emerge as new adults from their cocoons in the Spring (as you saw in the video), they mate, and the females immediately begin to search out tubes and crevices to lay eggs in and build the series of chambers with mud to separate each egg chamber. Often both male and female adults will sleep at night in any available tubes to keep warm, but the tubes are mostly used for laying in. Meanwhile, both males and females go about living solitary lives, pollinating, while the females also gather pollen to put in the egg chambers with the egg as food for the larva.
    Once nesting is finished, the adults simply go about doing their thing individually for another month or two, and then they die off. All that's left in the Fall are next year's developing pupae in the cocoons in the tubes. By winter, the pupae are fully adult bees inside their cocoons, and they go into hibernation until they emerge in the warm Spring.
     
  10. Omie

    Omie New Member

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    Here is a little video taken a few days after the first video.
    Instead of seeing bunches of eager males buzzing around focused on last year's tubes from which the females are beginning to emerge, in this new video we see females intent on choosing tubes to begin laying in. There are many horn faced mason bees and quite a few eastern Blue Orchard mason bees as well. Most of the bees you see now are the females, having mated already and beginning their nesting activities. The females are a bit larger and heavier than the males. Males have long antennae and sometimes a little white mustache!

    More females will continue to emerge from the old tubes for another week or two, and there are males loitering around the area hoping for that possibility...lol! But the bees in the video that are actively rushing in and out of the new tubes now are almost all nesting females.

    [video=youtube;6Pk8CYvGR4c]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Pk8CYvGR4c[/video]
     
  11. vermillion

    vermillion New Member

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    Awesome videos, thank you for sharing them.
     
  12. Gypsi

    Gypsi Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Beautiful video Omie. I saw on another site where to order the tubes and liners, or maybe parchment that could be used, but I've slept since then. I have blue orchard bees that are probably nesting in woodpecker holes in my elm tree. I'd like to set up a box like yours and hang it on that elm tree. Could you pm me where you get the supplies?

    Thank you,
    Gypsi
     
  13. Iddee

    Iddee New Member

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    Why PM? There may be a few members who would like to know. Also, supplier recommendations are always welcome.
     
  14. Gypsi

    Gypsi Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Still learning the rules of the forum. (the other reason for PM - I'm still learning to remember to subscribe to the post... doing that now.)
     
  15. Omie

    Omie New Member

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    I asked my husband to make the wooden holding box- it's pretty simple and has a back as well. Six empty large Dole pineapple juices cans fit nicely. We are going to make a second box just like it and install below it. Chicken wire to keep out woodpeckers and any large pests. The cans are 7" and the 6" long nesting tubes fit nicely in them. Each pineapple juice can holds approx 70 cardboard tubes. The tubes come with paper liners in place, then I replace the insert liners each year but the cardboard tubes get put away in a box over winter and get re-used. The paper liners with cocoons get pulled and stored in fridge. These are the tubes i like to use.
    I have enough cardboard tubes now that I mostly need to order just replacement paper 'insert' liners which i buy by the case. I'm just telling you the site where I order my stuff from, since you asked. that particular site also offers lots of good info about raising and helping our native bees.
    I did use rolled parchment in hole-drilled wood blocks one year, which was definitely cheaper, but it was time consuming and the parchment tended to absorb humidity and curl in unpredictable ways. Now I have many times more tubes and bees than 3 yrs ago, and this system is very fast and efficient. The bees seem to be doing well with it, as their numbers have quadrupled in a couple of years.

    There is of course a limit as to the number of solitary bees I can keep in one location, since they only forage out a few hundred yards in all directions, as opposed to a honeybee's several mile range. Thus there is only so much available forage/food for them from my location. But I think I am still ok and can safely add a second identical box. I'll limit it to the two nest boxes. I can always sell some or locate more in a different spot.
     
  16. riverbee

    riverbee Active Member

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    wow, very cool omie, thanks for sharing the videos and information, how long have you been doing this?
     
  17. Omie

    Omie New Member

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    This is my third year with mason bees, Riverbee.
     
  18. riverbee

    riverbee Active Member

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    thank you omie, i have read some about mason bees, but what you are doing, and the tubes and nesting boxes are incredible!
     
  19. Omie

    Omie New Member

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    So it's been about 7 weeks now since my first 2012 mason bees began emerging from their cocoons and reproducing. Today June 3rd was the first day i have not seen any nesting box activity. I think my masons (both blue orchard and horn faced) are done nesting for the year here. I suppose they are still out and about living their short life of retirement before dying off over the summer.
    I have maybe 350-400 totally filled tubes here at my nesting boxes...I'll count them later.

    I remember the first year I started mason bees, Spring 2010, I had bought 6 tubes of blue orchard cocoons and wound up with 60 filled tubes from both those bees and from other local wild mason bees coming to my first nesting boxes. So now, in 2012 my third season, I've gone from 60 filled tubes to over 350....a six-fold increase.

    Over the next few days I will take some pix of the filled boxes, and then I'll remove the filled tubes to store safely away from wasps and predators- in the garage at room temperature, in a ventilated mouse-proof container. Then when it gets cold in the Fall I'll move them into my fridge veggie drawer for the winter.
    Meanwhile, I still have some empty tubes which I'll leave in the porch boxes in case any summer solitary bees come looking for nesting sites- bees like summer leafcutter bees. I have not seen any leafcutters around here over the past couple of years, so I don't really expect any to show up. But one never knows, so I'll leave some empty tubes out just in case!
     
  20. PerryBee

    PerryBee New Member

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    Fascinating stuff! :thumbsup: I may give this a try someday, I don't know anyone up here doing this.