My first post here so I apologize if this is the wrong section.
We've been having good luck with our Mason bees the last two years. Maybe too good of luck!
Reeds are getting to be too expensive. I'd like to trade some of my washed cocoons for bee block sets so I can afford to keep having bees to give away to neighbors and friends in the future. I'll sell the bees at a low price too to buy gear if that's a better route.
I also have about 50 paper tubes filled with bees that I worried I will not have time to harvest. I'd like to give those away for free. If you want to give me some gear in exchange for those then I will not turn you down, but it's more important that these bees find a home fast and get harvested and outside in the next two weeks.
So far I've harvested about 100+ reeds and a few paper tubes with an average of about 65% fill rate (including the fairly empty late season tubes in my estimate). No chalk brood so far, and very few other issues. Judging by the size of the cocoons it looks to be predominately females at about a 9-1 ratio.
Sounds good that you have good luck with your mason bees.
All I have to trade is some paper tubes. I'd take 3-4 tubes of bees and pay you if that works better?
I had a fairly low yield of mason bees this year. When I opened some trays I was surprised to find pieces of green vegetation in some slots. I tossed them on the lawn as I cleaned my trays.
I later searched the web and discovered that they were leafcutter bee nests.
- Green Cells - Leafcutter bees
- Grey Cells - Mason Bee cocoons
- Yellow Cells - Failed Mason Bee cells, eggs didn't hatch or larva died
I am very interested in acquiring mason bees this year. I have a lot of bamboo that I could cut into lengths for trade...if you are interested. LMK
Another great post, Dubyadee.
What a visual image! I have heard about leafcutting bees. Crown bees sells them. I haven't seen that yet.
Dubyadee, I'm curious about your mason bee home/trays? Are they homemade? Could you give some details about making them, if that's what they are.
Down here in S. Calif, I've seen the handiwork of leaf cutter bees for years, but the only thing that's shown up in my two mason bee hotels are solitary wasps(?) that look like yellow jackets but are very un-aggressive and have occupied every single hole.
Topanga, Ca 90290
I have made trays two ways:
1. The style pictured above is made with small sheets of luan plywood with 1/4" to 5/16" square wooden dividers glued in place with Elmers glue. I cut the dividers out of 1" boards on my tablesaw. Slots are about 5" long. Bees don't care if ends are uniform, I think it helps them find the same tunnel when the holes are more random. (Think how difficult it must be for them with their compound eye lenses and 50 tunnels to pick from every time they come back with a bunch of pollen!) After piling up a half dozen of these trays, cover the top tray with a piece of 1x6 or plywood and tie it all together with twine or wire.
2. For another style, I cut several 1x6 boards to 25" lengths. Then I put the dado blade in the table saw and set to 5/16" wide x 5/16" deep. Set the rip fence about 1/4" from the blade. Run all the boards through the dado. Flip the boards end-for-end and run them through again (all slots on one face of the boards). Then adjust the rip fence out 5/8" and run them all through again, and again, moving the fence until you have grooves across the whole face of every board. Then cut the boards to 5" lengths and stack up to make your blocks. Again, you'll need a cover block and also a back. Tie or wire together.
Use Douglas fir or pine boards or good CDX plywood. Don't use OSB or particle board or cottonwood because these materials will fluff out and clog the tunnels. My glued sticks on luan seem to weather OK.
I mostly use very tall coffee cans (8" or so), and fill them with teasel stems, that I cut to average 6", although not all are 6". Some are 5, because that's where they end, and some I cut at, say, 7 to balance them out. Crown bees reports that they are much more popular with the mason bees than other kinds, and I can confirm that idea.
John S, are you growing your own teasel? I just ordered some teasel seeds, so I'm going to try doing so. Do you have any suggestions about this?
jbclem, Probably, finding teasel growing near you will not be a challenge. You've undoubtedly seen it and just need to attach a name to the plant. The second year plant stalks are used for mason bees, the dried flower heads used in floral arrangements. It'll be found, likely, within a 15-30 minute drive from wherever you are, off the side of the road. Standing about 3-6 feet tall.
pictures on wikipedia.
the following from http://www.ediblewildfood.com/.....easel.aspx
Habitat: Common teasel prefers sunny locations and occurs throughout many parts of the world where it is found in pastures, abandoned fields, roadsides, and waste areas. Teasel prefers damp, coarse and fertile soils.
From my reading you'll have to wait for the second years growth to achieve the stalk for habitat use. Find it now before roadside mowing or spraying happens; they're dried and standing.Looking for that damp-ish area.
Thanks for the information, it's a distinctive looking plant and should be easy to spot. But down here in my area there aren't too many damp areas, and the ones I know of are deep in wooded canyons with creeks...and not much sunlight. Does it grow around lakes or boggy areas?
When do you pick it...after the flowers have gone to seed? Do you wait until it's completely deep and brown?
jbclem, maybe I misspoke about the ease of finding teasel. Just returned from Vancouver BC on the bus and was specifically looking to the side margins of I5. Saw only 2 or 3 small patches, those mostly 4/5ths of the way to Portland. I come away thinking the soil structure must be too fine as well as too wet and boggy. That seen was higher, open ground. I don't to see it near major highways, but off secondary roads and smaller, rural and wilder suburban. First collecting, I was on very coarse, rocky ground, walking uphill between clients house and roadway or drive, sparse blackberry brambles- not rich soil, not deep shade, over-story was deciduous, some sun. Completely dried out is what I found and what you would find now. That's how you'd use it. People who have it on their property are pretty willing to part with it, asking will probably get you a 'take all you want'. I think you'd find it on some canyon roadsides just off the shoulders.
I was driving along I-84 in eastern Oregon this weekend and saw several patches of teasel between Hermiston and the Idaho border. Looked like it would grow in places that aren't quite wet enough for cattails . From January to March would be best time to collect so it is fully weathered and in time to be usable for spring bloom.
Yes I find it in fields all over. Once you "get" what it looks like, you will start to see it all over.
After my Mason bees quit for the summer, I was reading on HoneyBeeSuite.com about other types of solitary bees. The site suggested to drill various sized holes in blocks from 1/16" to 1/4" diameter. I took some blocks of ash I got from a cabinet maker and drilled 1/8", 3/16" , & 1/4" holes. All sizes are filling up. Bees are black and white striped
I used to throw out the teasel stems that weren't the right size, but then I read the same thing as you. Now I will put different sizes in there as well, like you said, for the other pollinators. Crown Bees suggests this, and they say that it helps the bees to "see" the stems when they are of varying sizes in a container.
Dubyadee, how deep are you drilling these small holes? And is ash the preferred wood for nests, are the hole interiors smoother than with the more common woods (pine, etc...).
I drilled as deep as the high speed steel bit would reach for each diameter, maybe 2" to 3" deep .
Ash wood is just what I had handy. It seems to drill really well and is fine grained so the holes are clean and smooth .