Mason Bees in the Arboretum

April 13th, 2011 by UWBG Arborist, Chris Watson

With the goal of enhancing pollination efforts, several mason bee houses have been placed throughout the Arboretum.  What are mason bees?  Well, according to the provider of the pollinators, Dave Richards of JohnnyAppleBeez, LLC:

“The charming Mason Bee is a gentle, shiny blue-black metallic bee, and slightly smaller than a honey bee. They are a superior pollinator, but do not produce honey. Only 350 females are needed to pollinate an acre of apple trees rather than 25,000 honey bees.  After emerging in the spring from cocoons, these solitary bees first mate, then the female begins to forage pollen and nectar from flowers for next year’s offspring.

The Mason Bee gets its common name from their nesting habit of using mud to create protective partitions for their young when reproducing. When the female has provided a sufficient supply of food for the larva, she lays an egg and then seals the cell with a thin mud plug. She then provisions another cell, and continues in this fashion until the nesting hole is nearly full. Finally, the bee plasters a thick mud plug at the entrance to protect the offspring from predators and the weather.

They are not aggressive and they may be observed at very close range without fear of being stung, unless they are handled roughly or if trapped under clothing. In nature, the Mason Bee nests within hollow stems, woodpecker drillings, and insect holes found in trees or wood. Sometimes, there may be dense collections of individual nest holes, but these bees neither connect or share nests, nor help provision or protect each other’s young. Their short foraging range is about 100 yards from the nest. Depending on the weather and available food, activity continues for around four to six weeks and then the adults die.”

The bee houses will remain secured in trees until late June, when the new cocoons will be collected for next year.  Eight boxes are located along Arboretum Drive, Azalea Way, and Pacific Connections.  Can YOU find all of them?

 

 

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