Frequently Asked Questions...
Q: Do Mason bees make honey?
A: No, they help make food by pollinating fruit trees and other flowers.
Q: How many bees do I need?
A: It takes a colony of about 250 female mason bees to fully pollinate an acre of commercial density fruit trees. Given that only about 1/3 mason bee eggs are female you should aim for about 800 bee cocoons per acre. Most home gardeners start by buying one or two sets of 20 cocoons. In a good year you can get a five fold increase in your population.
Q: Where do I put the bees in my garden or orchard?
A: Mason bees want their homes set on the sunny side of a building where it is warm and protected as much as possible from wind and rain. Don't put your bees in a tree, on a fence, or on a post. Buildings are heat sinks and they don't sway or shimmy in the wind, which makes them ideal spots for the bees. To determine which wall to start your new colony on, walk around your yard around 10am in the very early spring. You are looking for the sunniest wall you can find on the house, the garage, the garden shed, etc. That warm spot is exactly where you should put your bees. We reccomend hanging them about eye level because they are fun to watch.
Q: My bees seem to have flown away, where did they go?
A: First, check and see if your nesting tubes are being packed with mud at the end of every day. If they are, your bees are still around and busy working. The Orchard Mason looks more like a fly than what most people expect a bee to look like as they are almost completely black, so you may not notice them flying around. If your bees have in fact flown away, they may have found better nesting nearby. See the question above to ensure your nesting tubes are placed in a location the bees will enjoy.
Q: How far will they fly?
A: The average Orchard Mason Bee will fly about the length of a football field, or 100 yards. They will find the closest food source and not bother flying any further.
Q: What do I do with them in the winter?
A: Store them some place cool and dry and safe from predators. For most of us this is the refrigerator. If you live in a cold part of the country you may be able to keep them in an unheated outbuilding over the winter. Just put them in a box and crumple up some newspaper to pack around them. Don't store them in an attached garage or crawlspace. You want temperatures that drop into the 30's so the bees will stay really dormant. Attached garages frequently have furnaces and hot water heaters and warm cars . All of this is just a bit to toasty.
Q: Do I need to put out new holes every year?
Yes. Mason bees need clean holes every spring. If you don't provide them holes they will go off looking for them and you will lose your bees.
Q: When should I put them outside?
A: You need to put your bees outside when temperatures are consistantly hitting over about 50°F every day. If you have them outside for a fluke warm patch, the bees may die if it turns cold again. This time is different for every region, there is no set date to put out your bees.