Facts About Mason Bees
Thought to be a more productive pollinator than even the honeybee, mason bees are peaceful species indigenous to the Pacific region of North America. They are hardy, however, and can be found as far east as Tennessee. Research and testing continues in hopes of bettering ones chances at colonizing mason bees within orchard conditions, as they have a tendency to fly away under these free range agreements rather than to re-nest the existing housing structures. These bees have a one month life span, and the females begin laying eggs within four to six days of hatching. The males die much sooner, putting the females in far greater demand for beekeepers.
Mason bees are thought to grow to size as large or as small as their pupating cell. The female will lay one to two eggs each day for the entirety of her life, each one in its own cell and provided with ten days worth of food. Once the proper amount of nutrients has been stored for the larvae, the cell is plugged with mud by the female. Once the eggs hatch, the larvae will spend the next ten days eating the supply, and then nit themselves into pupae stage. Though the pupae reach full maturity by fall, they go into hibernation and do not break from their cocoons until early spring. The newly hatched bees will mate almost immediately, and the females will head out on their own to find new holes to nest in.
Mason bees are solitary, which explains the difficulty in keeping them as free range pollen agents. With no colony instinct, they have no homing code which would cause them to return as the honey bees do. They are, however, extremely useful even in the short term, as they tend to achieve up to ten times more pollen fertilization than can honeybees within the same time frame. It is thought to take up to 3 years to form a large orchard colony, but the benefits are immeasurable. Experts suggest digging a hole, lining it with plastic, and filling it with soft soil to discourage the females from wandering and nesting elsewhere.
Mason bees are notably more hearty than honeybees as well, boasting complete immunity from the damaging and costly infestation of the mite species commonly known to infect honeybees. Though humans often become concerned with this bee’s predisposition to the cracks and crevices of their homes for nesting grounds, these bees cause no damage to the foundations or siding of the homes that they choose. They are also a short term and very polite visitor, who will only sting under extreme duress or fear, the likes of which could only be caused by being trapped beneath a piece of clothing.