Getting to know Mason Bees

Happy February Culpeper!

    I don’t know about you but I am so ready for spring, for me that has always been a time of renewal and I am anxiously waiting for the weather to start warming up, things to start blooming, and my bees to become active. On some of the warmer days this past winter we’ve we were able to see the bees flying in and out of the hives which did my heart good. Even though this winter was bitter cold I knew we had done everything to insure they would make it into spring, but there are times you find yourself second guessing and find if a hive isn’t as strong as you thought it was you might find you’ve lost them. The first time I lost a hive I was so upset I found myself crying, and kept asking myself, what could I have done differently? It happens, all you can do is put on your big girl/boy bee suit and carry on, that’s how we beekeepers roll!

    There have been many people that have come into my shop and have asked about Mason Bees. They cannot make the commitment for becoming a beekeeper but would like to do something on a smaller scale to help our pollinators and often the questions asked are; how much time and effort do they take, do they have to do any maintenance, will they work for pollinating gardens? Well this year I am going to find out how well these little creatures do.

    But first a few facts about mason bees which are native to the Americas, are of hardier stock and are more resilient, they are low maintenance, and are less aggressive then their honey bee sisters and do sting, I have been told that their sting is unlike the sting of a honey bee and more like a mosquito bite (people are always asking me if I ever get stung and does it hurt? My answer? Yes, and Yes. I do not like getting stung, but it happens, it is not an excruciating pain but does hurt, but that’s just me, my husband can get stung and it doesn’t bother him as much, go figure!)

    The mason bee does not forage as far as a honey bee and stays in close proximity to a much smaller area such as 300 feet from their home. Mason bees spend their entire life cycle, which is about 6-8 weeks continually pollinating, cross pollinating, and collecting pollen whereas a

honey bee hive requires closer inspection and monitoring. The great thing about mason bees is that the startup cost is very minimal, and they are less susceptible to disease, pests and are great for a backyard garden.

    There are a number of places you can buy mason bee houses such as your local garden centers with many price ranges. I am excited to start this small adventure and will keep you posted on my mason bees!

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