Mason Bee Nest Care FALL/WINTER: October – January

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Anytime from October to January is a great time to harvest your mason bees and get them ready for spring. We will walk you through the process of “cleaning” your bees. If you want to make sure your colony has a viable chance, then you should take time for this simple process.

  • First, carefully separate the white nesting tubes from the brown guard tubes and make a pile of each. You will reuse the guard tubes each year, but dispose of the white nesting tubes after you unwrap them.
  • You have two choices: 1) Carefully, unwrap each white nesting tube. You will want to do this over a table cloth or newspaper. 2) Soak the white liner tubes in cool water for about 10-15 minutes. The liners will unravel and the debris will sink while the cocoons will float. 
  • If you unwrapped the tubes using the dry method, then place them in a bowl and fill with cool water. Gently swish them around to remove debris and any possible mites (fluffy yellow looking debris). Mud and other contaminants will sink in the bowl and the cocoons will float.
  • Finally, in a small colander, gently rinse the cocoons and spread them out on newspaper to dry. After an hour or so, move them to a cool location to continue to dry. A shed, garage, or basement is ideal.
  • Remember, don’t keep them inside a warm house too long (up to 5-6 hours)—they may begin to emerge depending on the timing.
  • After the cocoons have dried you can now place them into a paper bag and store them until February or March in a cool shed, garage, or basement that is unheated.
  • You can place them in the refrigerator to keep them cool, but you will need to create some humidity for them to survive. Add a small wet paper towel in a cup next to your cocoons. Keep this moist throughout the time they are in the refrigerator. 
By following this process, you should be able to significantly increase your mason bee population.

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