March 16, 2015
A few years ago, I read up on mason bees and what makes them reproduce in your orchard. Turns out that making mud available may be just as important as having "housing" for them. When they don't have mud, they will fly away until they can find some to pack their eggs in and then make their nest in that area. That is why they are called mason bees. I started putting out little plastic tubs of mud for them. Then I found that the tubs would fill up completely with water on a rainy day and I would be drowning mason bees, when they couldn't get out. I ended up drilling a small hole, about 1 or 2 inches up from the bottom, to keep some water in but keep the top of the mud above it. I also try to put a stick in each one, so they can climb out if needed. Then I realized that over time, the mud would be covered with leaves, moss, and pine needles. The mason bees had lost access to the mud! It was too hard to clean the tubs, so I figured I needed a quicker way. I decided to use the tubs that are wide enough to simply brush my hand across the top, removing the debris and ridding the moss. Then I found out that the tubs were drying out at times. Now in the spring, when it's dry, I will go out with a long necked watering can and make sure there's enough moisture in there. Just recently, I have become a lot more concerned about the amount of plastic in our bodies. It is flowing in our bloodstreams and getting stuck in our livers and kidneys (it's not just the turtles). I don't want to damage my health, nor the health of the wildlife. I have been raiding the family recycling bin for cans that are wider than normal, so I can fit my hand in them and sweep off the debris and moss. Then I drill them. It's a gradual process, but it makes for happier bees, more fruit and a more ecological orchard.
March 27, 2015
In my yard I am "blessed" with plenty of clay, some on the surface and some deeper down. I just take a spade and jump on it till it is all the way down, then wiggle it until I've got a crack in the ground about an inch wide. This seems to be enough space for the bees to access the mud/clay while also not letting too much moisture out. If it is is warm and dry for several days, I will pour a bit of water in the crack at night (to avoid drowning anybody).
In the past I've also dug a hole a foot in diameter until I hit clay, which they also like but those dry out faster. Also in the winter they fill with leaves and I often step in them accidentally. https://photos.app.goo.gl/5bjWb9dxc8oxeBCNA
March 25, 2015
I agree that it is a difficulty having to haul mud for long distances and how retention of mason bees would have it's negative impact on local populations. I have retainer wall of cement blocks which raise the earth of border shrubs. Since my blocks are not cemented I suppose they find proper access to the right kind of thing in all the adjoining natural tunnels that are not occupied by our spiders.
Another hardship for all bees during rainy days is that the pollens get washed off the flowering fruit trees. There must possibly be recommended options of differing flowering types of shrubs etc to solve this kind of shortage during wet periods.
Before the rains of the last couple days I pruned large branches from my later flowering plums and purposely placed those near my mason bee homes which are also sheltered together near the homes front door. Honeybees, any bees are not flying today, we even had hail. But in honeybees they always have spare stashes of pollen stored in honycomb for days like today to keep up with the non-ceasing egg laying activity of the queen. Mason bees are hindered in that area. I have had both. I will wait and see what happens next.
June 19, 2018
April 6, 2015
I put out a water heater drip pan with a mound of soil in it. It collects rainwater and the soil stays wet. Bees can get dry soil at the top of the mound or wetter mud down low. If they land in water they are able to swim and climb to dry ground.
Another thing I do is dig a hole under the eave of my chicken shelter roof, rainwater keeps the bottom of the hole wet and drier dirt towards the top.
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