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When exactly are mason bees available?
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jbclem
Topanga zone 9b, California 90290
11 Posts
(Offline)
1
October 3, 2019 - 5:46 pm

Although the front page of this website states that Mason Bees are Here, when I go to the order page and scroll down it informs me that the mason bee cocoons are sold out until the 2020 season.  So, which season is that?  Are we in the 2020 season now, or is that a year away.

I've missed the mason bee sales for years in a row because I don't have a handle on what the exact dates are, when the sales start and how the seasons are named.  And I always get that sold out message.

Would appreciate some details on this...

 

John

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John S
PDX OR
2593 Posts
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2
October 4, 2019 - 5:14 pm

I think that Tonya, the arboretum manager, is in charge of that.
John S
PDX OR

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sweepbjames
NE Portland, OR Cully Neighborhood
212 Posts
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3
October 5, 2019 - 11:25 am

I believe its a little too soon to be harvesting and cleaning cocoons, the larva are not yet finished with their task. Usually I see mason bee workshops starting in November. ....Yep, there's one scheduled for 11/2.    I think also, that shipping usually starts sometime in January, could be wrong. 

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John S
PDX OR
2593 Posts
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4
October 8, 2019 - 11:50 am

Mason bees are native. The best attractant for them is blooming fruit trees.  Put your tubes out and they will fill them. Make sure mud is available. If you build it, they will come.

JOhn S
PDX OR

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jbclem
Topanga zone 9b, California 90290
11 Posts
(Offline)
5
October 14, 2019 - 2:09 am

I did put tubes out, in the form of a 4x4 with holes drilled in it and also in a paper tube holder. And for three years they were filled with these friendly, solitary yellow jacket looking wasps.  I finally got an id on them this year, they are actually called mason wasps, and they eat caterpillars when they aren't hogging my mason bee nests.

This year they died out, looks like something got to the larvae.  So I hope to start over this year with some real mason bees.  Do I have them in my yard or neighborhood?  I dunno...I hope to have holes drilled for many sized different pollinators, and some tubes for the masons.  And I'll try to raise the odds by purchasing some also if they aren't sold out already.

Real mud is hard to come by here, my ground is sandy silt, silty sand.  Do you think that would qualify as mason bee mud if it was wet?

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John S
PDX OR
2593 Posts
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6
October 18, 2019 - 5:06 pm

Clay is better. You can probably find it by going to a creek bed. 

I would check out Crown Bees newsletter. They have a lot of tips on how to cultivate mason bees.  First of all, they prefer to live in reeds that are drilled to 5/16". 

I also have found that squirrels will dig in and eat the cocoons.  I have to wrap them with a bungee, and sometimes I drill a tiny hole and put a string through the bundle so they can't pull them out. 

John S
PDX OR

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sweepbjames
NE Portland, OR Cully Neighborhood
212 Posts
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November 26, 2019 - 8:01 am

jbclem said
I did put tubes out, in the form of a 4x4 with holes drilled in it and also in a paper tube holder. ..........I hope to have holes drilled for many sized different pollinators, and some tubes for the masons.  And I'll try to raise the odds by purchasing some also if they aren't sold out already.

My drilled hole experience was, even though adding more blocks yearly, that  after a an increase for several years and new nesting materials (blocks) were continually filled by natives  ... The population began to flatten out and then decrease. My reading was that pollen mites were the culprits, attaching themselves to the newbies as the climbed out, infecting the pollen stores in subsequent generations.. Now we need to consider the chalkbrood that has been decimating the mason bee population attributed similarly to the reuse of infected housing holes. The popular wisdom goes to suggest cleanable options; dis-assemble-able blocks, paper tube inserts, easy-tear tubes....... all to assist in harvesting- then cleaning the cocoons.  

If you do want to order bees call Tonia the arboretum manager. The number is listed under the arboretum tab, or somewhere nearby.

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Rooney
Vancouver SW Washington
686 Posts
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8
December 19, 2019 - 1:32 pm

Thanks for that information James! 

It helps me understand why I noticed several dead or very limp females under my old wooden blocks with the hives/holes. I moved a couple of them to my pieris flowers nearby hoping one of the feeble females would strengthen up on nectar. Sure enough she found her way and a male found her an easy mate. Wish I could locate the images.

Another thing I noticed that all holes were not 100% filled this season. They are still breeding in new places around the house, so they must sense the problems with the original homestead! (very cool)

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John S
PDX OR
2593 Posts
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9
December 19, 2019 - 5:32 pm

I had basically the same experience as James.  A bump increase with drilled blocks of wood then falling off.  When I read the crown bees newsletter and they showed that the mason bees greatly preferred the reeds to the blocks, I switched to teasel reeds.  I have been getting way more fruit since then and I break fruit tree branches every year now.  I am not sure that I want more mason bees.  I never had to buy them.

John S
PDX OR

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Rooney
Vancouver SW Washington
686 Posts
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10
December 19, 2019 - 8:19 pm

Well (John) if the newsletter lets you know that much information regarding reeds then what kinds of reeds and also tell us if you agree with James on harvesting/cleaning cocoons from the reeds??

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sweepbjames
NE Portland, OR Cully Neighborhood
212 Posts
(Offline)
11
December 21, 2019 - 10:53 am

Rooney said
Well (John) if the newsletter lets you know that much information regarding reeds then what kinds of reeds and also tell us if you agree with James on harvesting/cleaning cocoons from the reeds??  

I think what you are looking for in a reed is: ideally, hollow, kind of tough or thick exterior to resist ovipositors of advantageous predators looking for fresh meat to inject the eggs of their grubs. That 5/16" is the agreed upon normal cavity size, but there seems to be a little leeway smaller and larger that masons will definitely utilize. So reeds not being a standard size particularly I'd set up the cut offs, much larger and smaller than the intuitive target, for use by other species/sizes of pollinators. Tonya at the Arboretum would suggest that would make a nice addition to the insectary. 

Teasel is pretty readily found regionally and adapts well to the task with internodes from 4 to 8 or even 10" apart. Most of my readings suggest 6" is pretty much an agreed upon optimal depth. 

Reeds in general are going to 'crack' open pretty easily for harvesting/cleaning the cocoons. 

The paper tubes sold by HOS are substantial in that they are thick- have a plastic membrane layer that is resistant to penetration by '"stingers" but admittedly, being this stout, are tough to cut open for harvesting to my unpracticed hand.  A paper slip-in liner was looked into for ease of harvesting, but determined to almost double the cost of the tubes. I bought some from Crown Bees and they did fit our tubes, maybe the reuse of outer tube with new liner would pencil out over time. I don't know if spores from chalk brood will persist through the liner paper. I've also heard of news paper liners being rolled and inserted into the paper tubes.

There are nesting products to be seen, purchased or used as design considerations for essentially a layered wood block that dis-assembles for harvesting/cleaning/disinfecting. Probably easily made by someone with basic router or dadoing skills and equipment, going for that 5/16' diameter. A housing for such needs to consider wood swelling in our moist environment, for ease of handling come time.

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John S
PDX OR
2593 Posts
(Offline)
12
December 25, 2019 - 5:43 pm

James pretty much said it.

6" more or less makes for about an equal number of males and females, and when it comes to mason bees, we want LOTS OF LOVE!

As James alluded to, they seem to recognize the differential of slightly wider, longer and offset reeds much better than a block, which also can't be taken apart easily to clean.

THe decision to take them apart, take care of them, remove parasites, etc. is all about time. I don't have that much. I've got full time work, kids living at home, taking care of parents, lots of other hobbies,etc.

If you are low on cash like me, teasel is free and lasts a long time.  You can do the work at home while you are being a "good parent".

John S
PDX OR

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buzzoff
84 Posts
(Offline)
13
February 21, 2020 - 4:20 pm

Perhaps you guys are more advanced than this, but I found a nice Mason Bee video online.  Comes via PBS.

A whole show on Mason bees.  https://www.growingagreenerwor.....llinators/

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sweepbjames
NE Portland, OR Cully Neighborhood
212 Posts
(Offline)
14
February 22, 2020 - 6:28 pm

jbclem said
.... And I'll try to raise the odds by purchasing some also if they aren't sold out already. 

Mason bees are available NOW from HOS. (Dec.7 through the beginning of April. [from the Mason Bee order info. page])

 

Also:

Paper tube inserts, that fit the  tubes HOS sells are also now available from available HOS; contrary to my statement earlier in this thread.

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