Wednesday, June 15, 2022

I'll take that house by the Native Mason Bees & Vicky Spelman

Mason bee moving in May 27, 2022
All Photos: Vicky Spelman

Recently, I found an abandoned mud dauber’s nest that I sat down on a work/storage table under the covered patio. A few days later, I noticed a lot of activity around this mud nest.  The mason bees were moving in – ready made housing for them.  

Lots of native bees will nest in underground burrows, but some occupy pre-existing cavities found in tree stumps, old plant stems, or manmade housing.  Mason and Leafcutter bees are examples that nest in pre-existing cavities.  

Most native bees live solitary lives.  As adults, they are active for a short period of time – 3-4 weeks depending on the species – and are dormant through winter.   

Mason bees are early foraging and cavity-nesters that live their adult lives almost entirely in the Spring.  The males emerge first and the females follow several days later.  Once they mate, females search for a suitable nesting site and marks the entrance with her own unique scent.  She lays eggs in it, and will then provide nectar and pollen to feed her larvae.  Starting at the back of the nest, the eggs are laid forward with a mud partition between each egg.  

All the entrances are sealed by June 6, 2022

Leaf cutters are a close relative and emerge later - they can be found all summer long.  The same nesting concepts apply to both.  

If you decide you would like to supply housing for Mason and Leafcutter bees, Michigan State University Extension has some suggestions to keep parasitoid wasps and flies from becoming a pest that target these bee cells.

And PennState Extension has additional information for building a Mason bee house.