Thursday, May 14, 2009

Mason Bees by Tallgrass Toni

After hearing a lecture last winter given by Joe, a Denver beekeeper, I ordered 35 to 48 blue orchard or mason bees from a beekeeper in Ogden, Utah. Fifty six dollars changed hands. The advantages of having mason bees around versus European honey bees are: you do not need to maintain a hive, mason bees do not sting unless provoked, they pollinate crops readily, they are not territorial, and they are hardy. Supposedly, they are the first bees out pollinating in the Spring. Honey bees only fly to one species of plant during an outing, whereas mason bees collect pollen from many species during a run.

On Earth Day, the bees in their little cardboard condo arrived by U.S. Mail. I was instructed by Bill, the Utah bee man, to put them in the refrigerator because it was still too cold outside and nothing substantial was in bloom for them to feed on. Outdoor weather needs to by at least 55 degrees during the day.

May 7, 2009 was a warm, sunny day. I looked around my yard for blossoms that the bees could feed on and found a wild plum tree and a currant bush in bloom plus a ton of dandelions in flower.

Next, I filled a shallow birdbath with water and placed mud in a terra cotta saucer for the bees' building needs. Evidently, after laying her eggs in the cells of the condo, the female packs it with mud to keep predators from harming the eggs.

I got the bees out of the fridge. One promptly flew out of the condo and kicked the bucket on my kitchen table. Let's see $56 divided by 48, that's about $1.16 down the drain. I pushed him/her back into the condo hoping that s/he would revive later. I took the condo outside and nailed it to the southeast side of my tool shed.

Every day I checked the bee condo. I saw nothing. On May 9th, the weather changed. Cool and rainy. May 11th was a warm, sunny day. I checked the condo and saw the bees flying around a rose bush. They are smaller than honey bees and wasps. Today, May 13th, I found one trapped in my garage so they must be flying all over the yard.

The bees are a welcome addition to my yard and will help pollinate my flowers and vegetables. They seem to get along well with paper wasps. My one fear is that they will be in peril when my neighbor gets her trees sprayed as she does about six times a year since bees are very sensitive to herbicides.

If you are interested in ordering mason bees, just google in osmia lignaria and you will find several sources for obtaining them.