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Old 11-21-2011, 10:23 AM   #1
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bumblebee Blue Orchard Mason Bees

Blue Orchard Mason Bees

There are two recognized subspecies of Blue Orchard Mason Bees, Osmia lignaria lignaria and Osmia lignaria propinqua.

Eastern Blue Orchard Mason Bees (Osmia lignaria lignaria) may be ordered from-
Our Native Bees
http://ournativebees.com/content/bee-cocoons-seasonal

Western Blue Orchard Mason Bees (Osmia lignaria propinqua) may be ordered from-
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Old 11-21-2011, 01:29 PM   #2
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Instead of ordering live bees, what about just building nest boxes and lining the holes with paper straws then siting them properly and.... waiting it out to see what comes? If we're planting natives and have sources of accessible fresh water, they're probably "visiting" us anyway. I'm thinking nest boxes for native bees are a lot like ponds as in.... if we build them they will come.
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Old 11-21-2011, 02:01 PM   #3
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I'll second Equilibrium's suggestion. Mason bees (Osmia lignaria) are native to virtually every state in the continental US. If you have the right habitat (water, mud, continuous flower bloom in spring, nesting holes, etc.) they are probably in your area. If you don't have the right habitat any bees that you purchase would quickly disappear anyway.

Making sure the habitat is right is the first order of business. Fruit trees will supply a lot of nectar and pollen, but they alone don't have a long enough bloom period to sustain a population of mason bees.You'll need some other flower blooms before and after the fruit bloom. To prosper, mason bees need at least 6 - 7 weeks of continuous bloom.

Water and mud are pretty easy. Often nature will take care of these for you, but you do need to have a look around your area in the spring just to be sure that they are available.

Nesting holes are almost always in short supply. Our need for tidiness and cleanliness usually eliminates any nesting possibilities that nature might provide. Providing nesting holes can be a big help to mason bees.
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Old 11-22-2011, 01:59 AM   #4
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The general geographical boundary for the distribution of the two subspecies of Osmia lignaria is the Rocky Mountains. Osmia lignaria propinqua to the west, and Osmia lignaria lignaria to the east.
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Old 11-25-2011, 09:34 PM   #5
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So if no human is providing fancy bee houses with straws in them, where do mason bees nest? If I have snags in my woods, can I safely assume there are probably enough holes in them to keep the bees happy, assuming they nest in wood (given they tell us to drill wooden blocks for them, that seems logical but I don't know much about them)?

I have mason bees in my flowers in the summer, so they are around somewhere. How far do they fly for food - miles like honey bees do, or do they stay closer to home?

I never knew there were so many kinds of native bees until the last few years when I started really looking and wondering what was flying in my yard. Very cool critters.
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Old 11-26-2011, 01:05 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by turttle View Post
So if no human is providing fancy bee houses with straws in them, where do mason bees nest? If I have snags in my woods, can I safely assume there are probably enough holes in them to keep the bees happy, assuming they nest in wood (given they tell us to drill wooden blocks for them, that seems logical but I don't know much about them)?

I have mason bees in my flowers in the summer, so they are around somewhere. How far do they fly for food - miles like honey bees do, or do they stay closer to home?

I never knew there were so many kinds of native bees until the last few years when I started really looking and wondering what was flying in my yard. Very cool critters.
There are thousands of species of bees; over 4000 in North America alone. My state, Wisconsin, has documented over 400 native species. Several different species are referred to as mason bees, a group that uses mud in the construction of their nests.

Most of the bee species are solitary (don't nest in colonies with worker bees) and most are ground nesters.

Osmia lignaria has several common names; blue orchard bee, orchard mason bee, and sometimes just mason bee. The adult form is present only for a short time during the spring. They nest in holes in trees, sometimes inside broken stems of large grasses, and really just about any kind of material that has holes about 5/16 inch diameter.

Snags will often have holes for mason bees to nest in. They might be abandoned beetle holes or any other kind of wood boring creature's hole. Trees damaged by weather events may also contain places for bees to nest. A lot of nesting sites are destroyed when people remove snags and weather damaged trees.

As for providing bee nesting sites, leaving snags and weather damaged trees is a good natural way to go. But a lot of land owners won't have that option, or won't want to wait that long to provide nesting sites.

As an alternative to nesting blocks/straws/trays, holes can be drilled in wood fence posts, dead trees, tree stumps, logs in brush piles, etc. Don't drill holes in treated wood. 5/16 inch diameter holes are the preferred size for mason bees, but smaller and larger diameter holes will provide nesting sites for some of the many other above ground hole nesting species.

Osimia lignaria are believed to range up to about 100 yards when foraging. If the distance is greater that that, they will usually look for new nesting sites closer to their sources of pollen and nectar.

Cool critters and pleasant to observe. Since they haven't 'put all their eggs in one basket' like honey bees do, they don't choose to defend their nests. If they sense danger at their nest site their survival strategy is to just move to another nesting site.
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Old 11-26-2011, 09:06 AM   #7
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Just an FYI…. Osmia cornifrons is an exotic Japanese "mason" bee being sold by a handful of suppliers and some are listing them as "eastern hornfaced mason bees" or "eastern raised". Here’s another place selling the eastern native blue mason bee, http://www.beesource.com/forums/showthread.php?261806-Selling-mason-bee-cocoons-for-Northeast-USA-available-NOW. I still think it’d be better building our own nest boxes then waiting it out to see what’s already buzzing around that might “move in”. I dunno if this attachment is gonna work but… if it doesn’t, here’s a link to the USDA’s Bee Basics which is an overview of our native bees, http://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/pollinators/documents/BeeBasics.pdf.
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turttle> I've removed a boatload of buckthorn and some of it was big and multi-stemmed. Every once in a while I spot a stump that's Mary Poppins perfect for drilling so instead of painting the stump with happy juice... I take my chainsaw and nick the tree's knees and paint those. That way there's no chemical for any bees to get into being translocated when I drill holes into the side of the stump. Housing doesn't need to be fancy but.... straws would probably be a good idea no matter which way you go... helps in pest management.
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File Type: pdf Overviw-of-native-North-American-bees.pdf (1.48 MB, 3 views)
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Old 11-26-2011, 10:52 AM   #8
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Drilling holes in stumps and wood is actually not a good thing to do. While it's natural and is a great home for mason bees, it actually invites pest build up as well. Drilled holes work well for about 1-2 years. After that, the pest build up winds up shutting down more holes with the owner unaware of damage occurring.

Better is to have a means of harvesting cocoons in the fall. A variety of nesting material is available from paper tubes and reeds to pull-apart wood trays.

By the way, be cautious with buying mason bees. You do want to ensure that bees you're purchasing are native to your area. A few companies sell western bees to eastern states. Not only is it unethical to the bee which doesn't survive there, it's a bad purchase for the gardener.

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Old 11-26-2011, 05:50 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Equilibrium View Post
Just an FYI…. Osmia cornifrons is an exotic Japanese "mason" bee being sold by a handful of suppliers and some are listing them as "eastern hornfaced mason bees" or "eastern raised". Here’s another place selling the eastern native blue mason bee, http://www.beesource.com/forums/showthread.php?261806-Selling-mason-bee-cocoons-for-Northeast-USA-available-NOW. I still think it’d be better building our own nest boxes then waiting it out to see what’s already buzzing around that might “move in”. I dunno if this attachment is gonna work but… if it doesn’t, here’s a link to the USDA’s Bee Basics which is an overview of our native bees, http://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/pollinators/documents/BeeBasics.pdf.
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I agree that the best approach is the 'build it and they will come" method. There's very little cost, and if you are successful you've got the best possible bees for your area. It's really just making sure your habitat meets the basic need of the bees - adequate continuous flower bloom, water/mud (some clay in the soil is most desirable), and nesting holes. Even if you purchase bee cocoons you still need the basic habitat if your bees are going to prosper.

If you aren't successful with the 'build it and they will come' method, purchase your bee cocoons from a supplier that sells cocoons that are appropriate for your area. Insure that they are doing everything possible to prevent the spread of diseases and parasites.

I think the use of foreign bees comes from the old agricultural philosophy of anything goes as long as it increases profits. They gave little or no thought to the impact of their actions on the environment. They really didn't care what impact their actions might have on local ecosystems. With all of the knowledge that we have gained in the past few decades about the critical importance of ecosystem services to humanity it's really disappointing to see that some business still follow the old philosophy.

It also seems to me that with over 4000 native bee species to work with the commercial bee industry could find a suitable native bee for every pollination need. Granted, we don't know a lot about many of our native bees. But the environmentally friendly solution is to fill that knowledge gap, not to import yet another alien species.
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Old 11-26-2011, 10:00 PM   #10
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NewWisc,
Thanks for the mason bee info. I added, make bee blocks with 5/16ths holes to my gardening "todo list."
Yep winter has barely started here and I'm already working on my 2012 gardening list. LOL!

I see lots of native bees in my area, and I want to make them happy to be in my gardens.
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