“For bees, the flower is the fountain of life.
For flowers, the bee is the messenger of love.” — Kahlil Gibran
Honeybees are considered “pollen gatherers.” A different type of species and native to North America, Mason Bees do not make honey. Instead, they offer rich rewards in the form of cross-pollination. Mason Bees prefer to “bellyflop” and completely cover themselves in pollen (see image below), this has been proven as a highly effective cross-pollination method. Cross-pollination produces stronger plants that are less susceptible to disease. Attracting gentle and native Mason Bees is a great way to get more blueberries on your blueberry bush or bigger blooms in your flower garden.
“With the decline of the honeybee and colony collapse,” Anita Elder, the author of the article, “Mason Bees: Raising Beneficial Pollinators” and “Bee Mama,” said, “I wanted to do my part to help the environment and food sources. Here’s what happened when I put mason bees on my property.
“I had three Asian pear trees that were in decline. They weren’t producing much fruit and what did grow, didn’t have much flavor,” said Anita. “I thought honeybees might be the answer. I contacted a local honeybee keeper and asked him if he wanted to put a hive on my property. He asked me why I wanted them. I told him several reasons:
- I knew that bees were in decline and wanted to help.
- I have three Asian pear trees that were declining and felt help with pollination would give them a boost.
“He told me that honeybees wouldn’t be able to help with the second reason because they tend to be active long after fruit tree blooms have fallen off. He asked me if I had heard of mason bees. When I said no, he said I should do some research and that these bees were also called orchard bees since they are beneficial to pollinating vast orchards.”
“Bee Mama” Anita Elder shared these fun Mason Bee facts:
- You need around 60,000 honeybees to pollinate the same acre of fruit trees as only 400 mason bees
- They pollinate up to 100 times more effectively than honeybees
- Honeybees daintily land on a blossom and collect pollen on their rear legs, using saliva to wet and attach pollen
- Mason bees do a belly flop and carry dry pollen all over their hairy bodies, so a lot falls off as they move from one blossom to the next
“The following year,” Anita said, “I felt like a proud mom! All in all, I had over 400 cocoons! All but about 40 of my harvested cocoons hatched!”
Anita also said, “Compared to honeybees, mason bees have quite a few differences:
- Mason bees do not live in hives
- They do not induce anaphylactic shock and rarely sting
- They’re solitary, and therefore do not swarm
- They don’t produce honey (a bummer, but their pollination benefits offset this)
- They require much less equipment and cost less to maintain
- I also needed to create a mud source (clay based, not sandy) nearby
“Since my start with mason bees,” said Anita, “I typically harvest over 3,000 cocoons. My Asian pear trees are producing bumper crops and taste sweeter than ever (I get so much fruit now, I donate 75% of the pears to City Fruit).
“I’m still just as fascinated watching the bees at work each spring,” Anita continued. “They only take me about 30 minutes of work each year and now that I’m harvesting my own cocoons, I don’t have any additional expenses.”
Here’s what you need nearby to support Mason Bee habitat:
- Mason Bee house with removable nesting tubes or reusable nesting shelves
- Mud or clay within 50 feet of the Mason Bee house
- Wildflowers that contain pollen within 300 feet of the Mason Bee house
Mason Bees get their name by sealing each nesting tube with mud or clay. Support our native and beneficial pollinators and shop Mason Bee houses at duncraft.com.
SOURCES AND INTERESTING LINKS:
“Frequently Asked Questions,” Crown Bees: The Native Bee Experts. 2018. Aug. 10, 2018. <https://crownbees.com/faq>.
“Mason Bees: Raising Beneficial Pollinators,” Elder, Anita. May 2, 2018. Aug. 10, 2018. <https://www.mountaineers.org/blog/mason-bees-raising-beneficial-pollinators>.