I’ve hung up my mason bee house, now what are my mason bees doing?
We are well into our mason bee handout season so you might be wondering, I have a bee box hanging in my yard, but I don’t see anything happening!
Today is the last day of March and it’s a brisk 48 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s true that mason bees are hardy and can fly at low temperatures, but even they prefer it to be in the mid 50s! Your mason bees have been hibernating in cocoons all winter long. Even though ours have been in a refrigerator, there are many native mason bees out in nature that are still tucked up in their cocoons in woodpecker holes, hollow stems, and rockeries. They are waiting for the sun to come out and let them know that spring is here!
Once our days are more consistently in the mid 50s and low 60 degree temperatures, the mason bees will start to chew their way out of their cocoons. The males come out first and they’re the ones who leave those brown markings on the outside of the tube and house. That’s to let them know where to come back to find the females.
You can tell if you’re looking at a male mason bee by the little tuft of blond hair on his forehead. You may see some of them resting on the side of your house getting warm, or even poking their heads in the white tube to check on the females.
It can take the females anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to hatch out after the males. The females and the males will mate and then the females will roam around your neighborhood scouting for food sources and nesting sites. They are waiting for their ovaries to complete their development in order to start laying eggs. This is the time when it’s crucial to provide mud in your yard for these bees! The females will bring pollen and nectar back to their chosen nesting hole. This acts as a food source for their offspring. Inside of the nesting block they will lay an egg on top of that food source, and then find mud in your yard to build a wall to protect that egg. She will repeat that process until she gets to the front of the hole and then caps it with ¼” of mud. Each plugged hole can contain 5-8 mason bee eggs! Each female during her life span can lay 20-30 eggs so once she’s done with one hole, she’ll move to another and continue to lay eggs.
Don’t worry if you don’t start seeing this process happen until well into April, it’s a lot of work to fill an entire hole with eggs!
Enjoy watching your bees hard at work this spring and feel free to post pictures on our Facebook group of your bee house.
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