The Mason bee or “Blue Orchard Bee” are a solitary bee native to North America and are experts at cross pollination. They are about the size of a honey bee, but are black or metallic blue. Unlike honey bees, they do not produce honey but are more efficient when it comes to pollination. Another perk is that they are very docile, with only the females having the ability to sting.
Mason bees prefer plants that produce apples, blueberries or pears as well as cherries and peaches. With a short flight path they thrive in the urban setting. You do not have to be growing fruit to attract bees, try growing a variety of native or heirloom bee plants. A few you might try are sunflowers, lavender, chives and geraniums.
The female bee will use an existing hole in wood as nests for their eggs. Each egg is placed in the hole on a bed of pollen, then sealed over with mud. The eggs will develop into pupae which will in turn spin themselves into cocoons.
You can buy commercial bee homes or make your own. Any wooden block with drilled holes will work. Because Mason bees are cavity dwellers, you must pay attention to the length and size of the holes. Hole diameter should be 5/16 inch to insure a balanced supply of males and females. Hole depth should be 4-8 inches with a smooth opening. Situate your homes facing southeast for morning heat. Place them about 4 to 10 feet off the ground in a dry spot that is protected from rain and wind.
Blue Mason bees also need a source of mud to seal in their eggs. You can dig a small hole, line it with plastic and fill with sticky clay mud that you keep moist. All types of pollinators need our help so make your garden pollinator friendly. (photos by pixabay)
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