mason bees... mega-pollinators

tricky rick
By tricky rick on Fri, May 9, 2014 - 3:35pm

After some research, I decided to go a slightly different route and brought in a couple dozen MASON bees.

The research I dug up show they pollinate 25+% MORE effectively than a honey bee (pollen literally falls off their bodies as they buzz flower to flower), are not aggressive and don't sting (unless cornered), don't hive (are solitary little guys) and work for only a couple months and then hibernate in the little mud holes they deposit their larvae in.

Only down side I can find is no honey.  Up side is no protective clothing, special housing, or neighbor kids screaming about bees!

I wonder though about research into MASON and LEAF CUTTER bees being affected by pesticides as are Honey bees.  

Has anyone information regarding that?

Tricky Rick

Boise

 

PS  Interesting fact:  Mason bees are indigenious.  Honey bees are immigrants (legal I think ...  ha!)

8 Comments

cmartenson's picture
cmartenson
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Posts: 5971
I love "my" mason bees

The plum trees are my first fruit trees to flower in spring, followed closely by pear.  Both have white flowers and are not overly attractive to honey bees because there's rarely more than a couple on them at any one time.

But mason bees?  They are all over them and doing most of the pollinating. Based on last year's bumper harvest they do a darned fine job of it too.

I did try a cheesy little mason bee home to see if I could attract more, which I made out of bamboo sections laid sideways and bundled, but I didn't get any takers (I think the bamboo was too small diameter?).

No worries...the mason bees seem to know how to find places to live that suit them as there are lots on my trees!  

/Still love being a honey bee keeper though.../

Wildlife Tracker's picture
Wildlife Tracker
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Posts: 403
Bees

Whatever the honeybee lacks in efficiency probably makes up in volume. 30-70 thousand honeybees working an area vs. a few dozen mason bees, or a few hundred bumblebees is a different way to look at it.  Who wins? Probably depends on the flower. 

I use to do a lot of work in invasive plant control for several public and private groups, and what I learned from that work was that a large portion of the flowers outside that you think belong there, really shouldn't. Looking through a wildflower guide can sometimes be depressing.

Some of the most common birds are non-native, the common cottontail rabbit around here is non-native. Technically coyotes and opossums don't belong here, but they are here now. 

The forested landscape has changed dramatically in my area and it is evident by the stone walls, building foundations/wells, and old carriage roads that can be found. The average age of the trees and the species composition describes where the landscape is in succession, and you realize that none of the original forests are here.

Humans have altered the natural landscape so dramatically over the last several hundred years and it's sad, but it's also interesting to observe.

My point is that there are even non-native mason bees in the landscape. I looked it up, there are 140 mason bees in North America all specializing in different flowers and habitats. Osmia taurus seems to be a very competitive non-native mason bee, but there are others...

https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/beemonitoring/conversations/topics/103

With non-native flowers comes non-native bees, flies, and other pollinators. Ecologically, New England is now a mix of New England/Europe/Japan/Western U.S. 

 

Tall's picture
Tall
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 18 2010
Posts: 564
Native pollinators sustain my garden and orchard productivity

Almost all of my pollinators are natives, I actively maintain habitat for them. I highly recommend this approach for a low input, sustainable pollinator resource.

However, please consider patience as you start this process. Provide habitat for native bees, and “they will come”. Buying insects (IMO) is a risky way to get a bit of pest control or pollination or only 1 year. If there is insufficient habitat, they will not be there for next year’s crop. And the risk of introducing exotic diseases and parasites is potentially significant depending upon the animal (see an example for ladybird beetles, a commonly mail ordered garden predator: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dinocampus_coccinellae).

I have had good luck with mason bee nesting tubes. They do have specific requirements for diameter, siting and length of the tubes. See: http://www.mofga.org/Publications/MaineOrganicFarmerGardener/Spring2013/...

See bottom of article for other good links

It’s not all about Mason bees. My most abundant blueberry pollinators are bumblebees. To learn more about attracting and maintaining a robust native bee population see: http://www.xerces.org/enhancing-habitat-for-native-bees/

Doug's picture
Doug
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Posts: 3200
Quote:Based on last year's
Quote:

Based on last year's bumper harvest they do a darned fine job of it too.

Which brings up a subject I've been curious about.  Granted, last year's fruit crops were spectacular.  I wonder about the reason, however.  The previous year we had an exceptionally warm March when most of the fruit trees blossomed, followed by a normal April when all the fruit tree blossoms were killed, resulting in very poor fruit production.

My speculation is that the energy saved by not producing fruit two years ago may have gone into last year's bumper crop.  Does anyone have any more scientific knowledge?

Doug

Tall's picture
Tall
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Joined: Feb 18 2010
Posts: 564
biennial bearing
Doug wrote:
Quote:

Based on last year's bumper harvest they do a darned fine job of it too.

Which brings up a subject I've been curious about.  Granted, last year's fruit crops were spectacular.  I wonder about the reason, however.  The previous year we had an exceptionally warm March when most of the fruit trees blossomed, followed by a normal April when all the fruit tree blossoms were killed, resulting in very poor fruit production.

My speculation is that the energy saved by not producing fruit two years ago may have gone into last year's bumper crop.  Does anyone have any more scientific knowledge?

Doug

Absolutely Doug. Your observation of every other year bearing, or biennial bearing, is a well recognized phenomenon among many fruits. Fruit thinning during bountiful years is an important chore as young trees are getting established to help prevent biennial bearing. Although once established, it can be hard to correct.

Doug's picture
Doug
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Posts: 3200
Thanks Tall

In an event such as I described, where the abnormally warm March and dead blossoms occurred in a normally productive year, could the event disrupt the cycle such that the good years and bad years are reversed?

Doug

Tall's picture
Tall
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Joined: Feb 18 2010
Posts: 564
Doug wrote: In an event such
Doug wrote:

In an event such as I described, where the abnormally warm March and dead blossoms occurred in a normally productive year, could the event disrupt the cycle such that the good years and bad years are reversed?

Doug

I don't know and cannot find an answer readily. I have not seen a comprehensive description of the mechanism that underlies the phenomenon.

 

If this is happening in your orchard, let us know what happens!

 

Time2help's picture
Time2help
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Our contribution

For the local bees (thanks bees!), a PNW wildflower mix:

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