Mason bees (genus Osmia) are a type of native bee that is common throughout most of the U.S. They are usually a little smaller than a honey bee and metallic blue or blue-black in color. They get their name from their habit of capping off the cells where they lay their eggs with a mortar-like application of mud. Mason bees do not live in hives, instead they nest within hollow stems, woodpecker drillings, and insect holes found in trees or wood. For the home gardener who is interested in increasing their fruit tree, flower, and/or vegetable crop, using a mason bee house with artificial nesting cavities will attract a good sized collection of mason bees in a few years.
Third, you will need bees! We recommend purchasing 5-10 tubes of bees depending on the size of your yard and garden. Eventually, you could have approximately 800-1,000 bees per acre, depending on how well you maintain your house(s).
We ship bees from November – April. They will arrive in their tubes along with a small icepack to keep them from emerging. Once you receive them, please put them in a cool location (a garage or shed are ideal locations). If you choose to put them in the refrigerator, please make sure to add a moist paper towel to the container holding the bees. IMPORTANT: Do not put the moisture directly on the cocoons, as this will create mold. The moisture will help to keep them from drying out until you are ready to place them outside near their new home. Your new bees will emerge in spring at the first sign of 50+ degree temperatures.
First, you will need a mason bee house. We have crafted a convertible nesting box that holds nesting material as well as a space for placing bees in the cocoon stage. We highly recommend that you DO NOT drill holes into a block of wood unless you intend to use a paper liner or tube inserted into each hole. Drilling holes without tube liners can cause the bees to become trapped from debris and they may die. You need to be able to remove the cocoons in the fall to maintain a large happy colony.
Second, you need a location for your colony. A sheltered location on the outside of your house, barn, shed, or garage that faces south or east is best.
Typically, you will need about 800 – 1,000 bee cocoons per acre. Most home gardeners start by purchasing 5-10 tubes of bees. Each year, your colony should increase in population by five times!
Besides the minimal cost and upkeep, mason bees are the top pollination specialists. Studies conducted in netted orchards have shown that 250 female mason bees can pollinate apples as effectively as 50,000 honey-bees! Now that’s pollination at its best! These little guys will rarely wander very far from their home and are easy to care for. Mason bees don't make honey; instead they help produce great crops of fruit, berries, and vegetables. Another benefit of housing mason bees is that they also work in cool or rainy weather when honey bees are more likely to take the day off.
If you have any fears related to being stung, mason bees are a great place to start because they won't sting you. The males do not have a stinger, and the females will only sting if trapped or squeezed.
Owning and raising your own mason bees will add beauty, activity, and pollination to your yard and garden. We have raised mason bees for more than 10 years now and our crops have tripled in size due to the massive amount of pollination that is taking place at Fat Dog Farms!