Why Don't I See Any Full Holes In My Mason Bee Nesting Block?
We love seeing updates from our renters with pictures and videos of their mason bees flying and full holes in the nesting block. Some of you may be looking at your block and wondering, why doesn't my nesting block look like that?
There are so many variables that can impact mason bees and their nesting activity. Here are a few common questions we ask to determine what's going on with your mason bees.
WHEN DID YOU RELEASE YOUR BEES? Depending on when you signed up to receive your bees, that determines how far into their spring lifecycle the bees currently are. For renters who received bees in mid-March, their females have hatched, mated with the males, scouted and foraged the neighborhood, and are now each laying 20-30 eggs. For people who received their bees later in April, the bees are still hatching, mating and getting ready to nest.
WHERE IS YOUR BEE HOUSE? The placement of your bee house is very important and can make a big different in how much activity you see in your block. Mason bees like to be warm and they need the warmth of the sun to become active in the morning. If your bee house is not in the sun, it is likely that the bees are finding warmer nesting sites elsewhere in your yard. Once you have hung up your bee house, DO NOT MOVE IT. The bees will be confused and will not know how to return to the house. If you think your house is not in a sunny enough location, take note and adjust the location of your bee house next year.
DO YOU HAVE MUD AVAILABLE? Mason bees get their name from the fact that they use mud, like brick layers, to build protective walls in their nesting cavities for their offspring. We have found that the bees prefer sticky, clay-based mud over sandy soil. Didn't get a bag of clay from us this year? That's ok, many yards have clay in the soil just under the topsoil layer. Try digging a hole to uncover the clay and keep it muddy throughout the spring. If you are not seeing much activity in your bee house, consider purchasing a bag of clay next spring to supplement your soil.
WHAT DO YOUR BEES HAVE TO EAT? Mason bees are considered "generalist" pollinators. That means they aren't picky about what they are foraging on, but they need food sources within 300 feet of their nesting house. Consider planting more "bee friendly" plants in your yard for next spring. Bees are looking for many pollen sources in a small area so instead of planting bulbs or other stand alone flowers, think flowering shrubs like currents, blueberries, or pieris. Check out our PNW plant list, or our list of plants by flowering month.
ARE THERE CHEMICALS BEING USED IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD? Now that it is spring and more people are out in their gardens, they may be thinking about how to remove unwanted plants from their gardens. We strongly urge everyone to discontinue the use of any chemicals in their garden. Mason bees are even more affected by chemicals than other insects because not only are they foraging on flowers, but they are also collecting the dirt from your yard and laying their eggs on top of it. Many chemicals that are deemed "safe" can still kill your bees.
And finally, sometimes the bees just choose to nest somewhere else! And that's OK! Sometimes it take a couple years to figure out the best location for the nesting block as well as establish a local population of bees. Whether your bees stay or have found other holes in your yard, you are helping repopulate native bees back into our ecosystem & are helping the mason bee population.
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