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 Post subject: raising solitary mason bees
PostPosted: Tue Feb 25, 2014 12:31 pm 
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i'm going to start providing habitat for solitary bees this year. i read up on it here, and i'm pumped! http://www.crownbees.com/

the bonus for vegans is that there's no honey to bother with, and providing them a habitat will increase the diversity. i already encountered a cutie pie when we were working on our house with the back door opened. he (i assume it was a he, since the boys hatch before the girls do) wandered in to the kitchen, and i caught him on my sauce splash screen, and ushered him back out, only to have him start flying back in. he tumbled on to his back when the screen made contact. it was so cute!

i'm going to start with a cheapo solution by just getting reeds and shoving them into a half-gallon plastic jug with the top sliced off. i'm going to walk around the park to see if there are any reeds i can harvest. if not, sometimes newer shopping centers plant reeds around runoff basins. failing both of those, i guess i can buy them. :-) at least this first year.

do any of you raise solitary bees?

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 Post subject: Re: raising solitary mason bees
PostPosted: Tue Feb 25, 2014 4:18 pm 
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I was reading recently that mason bees are filling in for european honey bees as pollinators of choice since they don't suffer from colony collapse and are more reluctant to sting. That certainly seems to be the case around here--my local hardware store is selling the bees and their habitats, something I've never seen in previous years!

I was going to make a little habitat for the larvae by drilling holes in a block of wood and mounting it on the south facing wall on my apt. I decided against it though because I have so many birds around my patio that it would probably be a death sentence! I was reading about putting a tarp over the holes once the eggs have been laid to protect against birds, but I think I will still wait till I have a little more space.

I'm curious to hear about your experiences with them!

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 Post subject: Re: raising solitary mason bees
PostPosted: Tue Feb 25, 2014 4:34 pm 
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the drilled holes aren't as sanitary as disposable reeds or a tray system where you can really get in there and scrub the previous year's mites and mud out. the reed system is definitely the way to go for introductory caretakers, since it's a low intro price point.

as for the birds and parasitic wasps, if you have an enclosed porch or something, you can move them in there after the holes are all plugged up (that's what i'm going to do) or you can cover the whole thing with fine netting.

the one good thing about the way they're laid is that all the girls are put in in the far back, so if a bird does get to them, they'll at least only get the boys? (sorry boys)

and yeah, they're super laid back. they're patient independent supermoms. they're too busy doing their own thing, that protecting the eggs is low on the list. they'll just take a break if something is in their way.

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 Post subject: Re: raising solitary mason bees
PostPosted: Tue Feb 25, 2014 7:21 pm 
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I've looked into building the "pollinator condo" sorts of things, but not gotten around to it yet.

People still complain about them and how to get rid of them though, and convincing them that they don't really cause structural damage to their house/deck is hard to do.

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 Post subject: Re: raising solitary mason bees
PostPosted: Wed Feb 26, 2014 4:39 pm 
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That's interesting about the drilled holes! I hadn't thought about how I'd clean it out..I guess with vinegar solution and pipe cleaners? There are lots of waterways around here so I bet I could find some reeds pretty easily. Thanks for that tip!

I'm also worried about the adult bees getting snapped up as they're traveling to and from the habitat. Probably not much that can be done about that? I just keep remembering back when I was a kid I raised painted lady butterflies and immediately when I released them half were snapped out of the air by birds. Traumatized!

Are you going to wait for local bees to find the nest you've built or are you buying some?

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 Post subject: Re: raising solitary mason bees
PostPosted: Wed Feb 26, 2014 5:10 pm 
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i had a ton of bees visiting my garden last year, and i bet some of them were solitary, seeing as how close i could work to them. (and that bee i saw last week totally seemed like a sweetie pie, so his ladies will probably hatch once it gets warmer. i have no idea where they are, but they're around) i did post on a local FB community to see if anyone else raised them, and nobody got back to me.

poor little you. that sounds so sad! your poor butterflies.

when you do build a nest, make sure your reeds are at least 6 inches long so your mamas can lay some girls.

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 Post subject: Re: raising solitary mason bees
PostPosted: Wed Feb 26, 2014 6:15 pm 
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Ooh sounds like much fun. If I were to do something like this this year, I'd have to be cool knowing it would a temporary once only kind of thing, as I'm not likely to be in one place throughout the season. Might be nice for the bees sake though.

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 Post subject: Re: raising solitary mason bees
PostPosted: Wed Feb 26, 2014 9:11 pm 
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I just bought my husband a mason bee house for Christmas! Although we haven't hung it yet, we're looking forward to it.


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 Post subject: Re: raising solitary mason bees
PostPosted: Wed Mar 05, 2014 10:36 am 
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we got a house this year, too! i have a spot for it, but i'm waiting until it gets warmer to put it up.

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 Post subject: Re: raising solitary mason bees
PostPosted: Sun Apr 20, 2014 2:25 pm 
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OK, so this is not about mason bees, but it sort of fits here. I got chased around by a carpenter bee (defending his nest, presumably) this weekend! It was a male (only females have stingers so it was just kinda intimidating, not scary!) and later I saw them climbing around in a hole in one of the wood beams on my patio. I'm not going to tell my apt manager because I don't want them to be hurt but I may plug up the hole after the season is over. It was pretty cool, but omg they are HUGE!

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 Post subject: Re: raising solitary mason bees
PostPosted: Sun Apr 20, 2014 11:50 pm 
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i went to school for horticulture and landscape architecture. one of our classes was held under a giant trellis with gigantic wisteria. during class, a big carpenter bee landed right on my nose and stayed there for a good minute. (it was shortly after my grandma died, so it felt kinda personal and happy. and scary and awesome.)

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 Post subject: Re: raising solitary mason bees
PostPosted: Mon Apr 21, 2014 1:11 am 
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Woah! I don't think I could've sat still but what a cool experience!

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 Post subject: Re: raising solitary mason bees
PostPosted: Mon Apr 21, 2014 8:04 pm 
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My husband is starting some mason bee homes this spring! He's just doing the drilled-holes-in-wood thing. I don't know anything really about it but am interested in seeing how it does.

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 Post subject: Re: raising solitary mason bees
PostPosted: Mon Apr 21, 2014 8:24 pm 
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they should work fine! make sure the holes are at least 6 inches deep, and then next year put a new one up and this one in a box with a hole before they emerge, so they don't try to lay eggs in the dirty holes with potential parasites/diseases/predators.

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 Post subject: Re: raising solitary mason bees
PostPosted: Mon Apr 21, 2014 10:32 pm 
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supercarrot wrote:
the drilled holes aren't as sanitary as disposable reeds or a tray system where you can really get in there and scrub the previous year's mites and mud out. the reed system is definitely the way to go for introductory caretakers, since it's a low intro price point.


When it's light outside, I'll take a photo of my setup. It's an experiment, but I built a little house with a cubby where I can insert drilled leftover firewood. Next year (assuming I actually attract mason bees), I'll just replace it with more drilled scrap. I think I can write up the plans from my notes if anyone is interested in building their own.

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 Post subject: Re: raising solitary mason bees
PostPosted: Tue Apr 22, 2014 7:28 am 
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awesome!

i've seen big bumblers flying/hovering around, but i haven't seen anyone use the house yet. i hope the holes aren't too small. :-(

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 Post subject: Re: raising solitary mason bees
PostPosted: Tue Apr 22, 2014 7:52 am 
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couropita, how did you know it was male? a bee like that is one of our main pollinators for our passionfruit vine, and i am just learning about them.

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 Post subject: Re: raising solitary mason bees
PostPosted: Sat May 10, 2014 6:19 am 
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The first gift I ever gave my partner after we got together was a mason bee house. Since then, he's built all sorts of different houses with material he has around the house/garden to see which ones they like best (logs with drillled holes of various sizes, bits of bamboo, dried out sunflower stems, even plastic drinking straws). There seem to be different species that prefer different size/depth of holes. This year, we even had cuckoo bees parasatize some of the nests, which made him really sad. (I'm a bit more philosophical about it, I guess. To me, it's just nature.)

Anyway, when it finally stops raining here, I'll try to go out and get some pictures.

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 Post subject: Re: raising solitary mason bees
PostPosted: Mon May 12, 2014 10:31 pm 
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Would a mason bee house be a mean gift to give my allergic husband? Probably. Sigh.

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 Post subject: Re: raising solitary mason bees
PostPosted: Tue May 13, 2014 12:30 am 
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if he hates bees yes. but if he's indifferent or likes them, i'd say go for it. if it's out of the way, he can admire them from afar. they're docile anyway.

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 Post subject: Re: raising solitary mason bees
PostPosted: Tue May 13, 2014 1:23 am 
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torque wrote:
couropita, how did you know it was male? a bee like that is one of our main pollinators for our passionfruit vine, and i am just learning about them.

I'm just guessing based on its behavior! I read the males hover and dive bomb to protect the nest.

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 Post subject: Re: raising solitary mason bees
PostPosted: Tue May 13, 2014 5:43 am 
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i will have to do more research about these little guys. they are so cool. it's getting cold here now and we don't see them much anymore unless it's really warm in the daytime.

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 Post subject: Re: raising solitary mason bees
PostPosted: Tue May 13, 2014 9:14 am 
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supercarrot wrote:
they're docile anyway.

The orchard where I worked had mason bees, and I got stung and had a terrible allergic reaction. I was just walking up a hill, nowhere near the houses. Mason bees are totally awesome, but they will still sting, and people with allergies need to steer clear!


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 Post subject: Re: raising solitary mason bees
PostPosted: Tue May 13, 2014 9:57 am 
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i got stung by a bumble bee a few years ago too. i have always been super bee friendly and am not afraid of them, and this one just literally came up to me and stung me in the stomach. i was totally taken by surprise (i was wearing black, so it probably thought i was a bear, in its defense). beware!!

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 Post subject: Re: raising solitary mason bees
PostPosted: Tue May 13, 2014 11:20 am 
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bumblers nest in the ground. i wonder if you were stepping near it's nest.

and vijita, you're right. i didn't think of the possibility of stepping too close to them. was there clover on the ground? that's the one thing that's keeping me from growing clover in my pathways. i don't want to step on anyone.

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