It’s been more than one month since I set up my first mason bee house. It took about five days for all of the 20 bee cocoons to hatch and get started with their very short lives. If you’d like to see what they looked like when I got them IN THE MAIL, look here. Solitary bees only live about 5-6 weeks. This means that all of those bees are most likely already dead. As of today, they have filled and capped 23 of the tubes in the mason bee house. They were awfully busy for about a month, gathering pollen and nectar and bringing it to the tubes, packing it in with the eggs so the larvae had food.
Mason Bee Timeline: How to Keep Over the Summer
Setting up a house for mason bees is super easy, but you’ll have to time it right. Here in the Pacific Northwest, mason bees are put out in April and slow down by May. In the meantime the females have gathered their pollen and nectar mix, laid about 6-8 eggs per tube and caked those shut with mud.
The eggs will then hatch and the larvae will feed off the pollen and nectar throughout the summer. After the the tubes or holes are plugged up and there is no more activity, it is best to store your filled holes. This will protect your growing bees from pests, birds and parasitic wasps. These little bee larvae are a tasty treat for them and the larvae are not as secure as they seem, even packed in all that mud.
I don’t have one of these yet, but Crown Bees recommends storing them in a Bee Guardian Bag. According to their website (which has become my go-to source of mason bee information), you store the mudded entrance face up, vertically inside the bag. It’s a very fine mesh organza bag with a draw string. Perhaps something similar would work if you don’t get around to buying the actual bag. It needs to allow for air, moisture, but be super fine mesh to keep out pests of all kinds.
Put your bee tubes, inside the bag and somewhere protected, warm, with ambient temperature for the summer. The larvae are growing into full grown bees and need warmth. Crown Bees suggest a shed or garage. It is NOT yet time to put the bees in the fridge for hibernation. They need warmth to develop into adult bees before this.
In the fall, late September to early October, it is time to harvest the cocoons to prepare them for their hibernation until next spring. Follow along, and I’ll go over this process in an upcoming post.
I actually miss seeing them buzzing around the yard. It was a very short season. But now it’s time for summer leafcutter bees! Time for a little research. Anyone else having fun with solitary bees? I’d love to hear how it’s going!