Mason Bee House: How to Keep Over the Summer

Full House
The tubes are filling up!

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.FullSizeRender-3

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.

leafcutter bee
Leafcutter bee season is coming!

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!

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8 thoughts on “Mason Bee House: How to Keep Over the Summer

  1. Fascinating. I have never put much thought into bees, except to protect them by avoiding pesticides. If I wasn’t so allergic I might be tempted to set up a bee house.

    I’ll just plant all the bee friendly flowers I can in our garden and help the bees that way.

    1. Thanks Laura! Planting bee friendly flowers is a wonderful thing to do for bees (along with not using pesticides)!Thanks for your comment!

  2. Sarah,

    This is a fascinating article, I had no idea you could ‘mail order’ Bees.

    The whole process is interesting and you wrote about it in a very easy to understand fashion, so thanks for that.

    I do have one question…. How has Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) affected this industry? Has it been brought under control now?

    Carl

    1. Hi Carl. Yes, it is surprising what you can get in the mail (I know people who have gotten baby chicks, although you have to go pick those up at the post office). Colony Collapse Disorder is still a crisis situation for honey bees. The mason bees are a different kind of bee that are solitary and do not produce honey. They are a great alternative for pollinating because they are super efficient pollinators while also being native to the U.S. No honey though, but I think people are starting to learn more about other kinds of bees these days, with all that is going on. There are thousands of kinds of bees out there…Thanks for your comment!

  3. I have wanted to keep bees ever since we moved to our 3 acre property!! I am so excited I found your blog! can you tell me how raising bees might be diffferent in a hot climate like Florida?

    1. Hi Hillary, I found a few resources for you to check out about beekeeping in Florida. I’ll post the links below. It really is quite different because the bees can be active year round, as long as the temperatures are warm and there are flowering plants in season. Here, in the Pacific Northwest, it can be a struggle for beekeepers to overwinter their beehives and keep them dry. I don’t imagine you have this problem. I found this blog by a Florida beekeeper: https://beeinformed.org/2014/11/21/winter-beekeeping-in-florida/ and there might be more general info here: http://www.floridabeekeepers.org. Let me know how it goes. 3 acres sounds perfect! Happy Bee-ing!

  4. This was a fascinating article. I did not know anything about solitary bees. This article makes me want to read through your entire website. Well done and thanks for educating us. It is great to see what is being done to save the bees.

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