Orchard Mason Bees

I just picked up my rented orchard mason bees, Osmia Lignaria, for the season.  These native bees do not sting and look very little like bees.  However, they are great pollinators doing their job from about now until early June. 

I have to admit to being lazy, I don’t want the bother of having to remove the new bee cocoons from their tubes, clean them and store them in the refrigerator until next spring.  They need to be taken in about the beginning of June so they don’t get parasitized by wasps.

At the Spring Native Plant Sale and Celebration on May 11 from 10-4 in Mercerdale Park on Mercer Island, WA, we will have a bee expert talk about these little native bees.  If you have a lot of things in bloom in the spring (trees and shrubs count) you may want to consider raising these bees.

Maybe you’ve heard, “The pollination crisis is upon us. Honey bees are not doing well.”  It’s a fact. Did you know that you can improve the plight of the pollinators by using your own back yard?  Consider the ways to ease the crisis and help your own garden by raising bees in your yard. You need to place your bees in the sun but also protect them from rain. 

There are many styles of bee nesting material from paper tubes in a quart milk carton to sophisticated nesting blocks and houses.

The bee house above right is not easy to remove the cocoons and clean. Some bee suppliers do NOT recommend wood blocks with drilled holes. This is because your bees will fail within a few years due to pest buildup.

Below you see paper nesting tubes placed in an empty oatmeal box which is then placed in a empty milk carton.  Milk cartons are good because they are waterproof.

Commercially purchased bee houses and nesting matrials are also available.  The houses with paper tubes are easy to use and clean because you just open the paper tubes and clean the bees and then put them into clean tubes in the spring.  You can tell if the bees have laid nests in the tubes because the end of the tubes will be plugged with mud.

In selecting a bee system it is important to consider how easy it will be to remove the bees and clean the nest for next year

Wood trays are an excellent nesting material.  Wood is their natural habitat and it pulls moisture from wet pollen masses. The trays come apart for easy bee removal and cleaning.


You can buy mason bees on line although it may be too late for this season.

To the right you can see cleaned bee cocoons ready for winter storage in a refrigerator.



About WNPS

Washington Native Plant Society, Central Puget Sound
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