My mason bees arrived a day early! They came in the mail, as if they were not living creatures. In a regular cardboard box, along with the cardboard nesting tubes I had ordered. The actual bees were in a teeny tiny cardboard box about the size of a thick slice of butter. The instructions from Crown Bees said to cool them in the refrigerator right away.
The information explained what to do if a few of the males had already come out of their cocoons. It said, “This shows that they are healthy, strong and lookin’ for a little lovin’.” That little lovin’ will mean death for the males, so hopefully they get at least a few days to enjoy life out of the cocoon.
My daughter and I took a peak into the tiny box, and two little guys were indeed already out. You can purchase something called a Humidibee for this purpose, but I had not. So we jabbed some holes in an old hummus container, popped the required sugar-soaked cotton ball in (for nourishment), covered it all with a brown paper bag, and there they went into the fridge, right between the strawberries and leftover soup. Apparently they can live up to five weeks out of the cocoon if they’re kept cold so they don’t move around. This seems crazy to me, but my experience level with all of this is, shall we say, at the beginning stages.
With the bees safe,and literally chilling, I needed to set up their house. According to the experts at Crown Bees, the cheap bamboo house I had bought on Amazon was not only poorly constructed, prone to mold and pests, it was also a “deathtrap” for mason bees. The bamboo tubes are impossible for them to get out of and impossible to harvest the cocoons from in the fall.
Homemade Bee House
I ended up pulling all the glued bamboo (deathtrap) tubes out of the bee house I had, putting in a plastic container for a little more rain protection and adding the cardboard tear away nesting tubes. I was looking for something that would provide a bit more rain protection, but this is what I found. I really hope they like it. The instructions also insist that there be a good supply of mud nearby. This is what they use for building their nests inside the tubes. I also put out a little dish of water with rocks. I know this is essential for honey bees. I’m not sure if these guys are any different.
If you’re planning to start raising mason bees and would like to make things easier on yourself, I recommend buying one of these kits. Everything is there that you would need, including bees. However, if you want to do it yourself and cheaply, the nesting tubes really can go in any container that is at least as long as they are and that you can mount outside. The best spot is against a wall for protection and stability with morning sun and some protection from rain if possible.
When the sun came out the next day, I took them out of the fridge, put them in a little jar lid and set them on top of the nesting material, as per the instructions. As I was leaving for the day, one little guy was bravely making his way out.
I sure hope they like their new home.