Brushy Mountain Bee Farm Brushy Mountain Bee Farm, Inc.

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Orchard Mason Bees

Mason bees, Osmia species, are a solitary bee native to the Americas. These hole-nesting bees are superior pollinators and require little management. Mason bees will seek naturally occurring tubular cavities as their nest and, named for their habit of using masonry products (mud), the female will begin constructing chambers for each of her eggs.

In constructing the nest, the fertile female will gather food and mud to construct several chambers. Beginning at the back of the nest, the fertile female will make a pollen loaf, supply an egg, and close off the chamber with mud. Within each chamber is one egg that will develop and form a cocoon for over-winter hibernation. Some regions (Florida and Gulf Coast) do not offer the cold winter temperatures needed in the development cycle for some Osmia species.

The eggs in the furthest chamber from the entrance are the most protected as they will emerge as females to carry the population forward. The male bees will emerge first and wait at the entrance of the nest to mate with the emerging females. After being fertilized, the female bee will leave to collect the resources needed to begin building a nest. Mason bees have a short flying range of 300 feet and to help navigate back to the nest, the female will mark it with her scent.

A key component to selecting a good nesting site is the availability of resources. Mason bees require a variety of pollen for the full range of nutrients needed along with nest building material. Pollen is the source of protein, fat, and nutrients for the bee and the developing larvae. Pollen is collected and held on the underside of the abdomen. The way mason bees carry pollen makes them amazing pollinators (100x better than honey bees when comparing bee to bee).

With their superior pollination, gentle & non-aggressive behavior, and the little upkeep required, mason bees are an excellent choice for backyard gardens and orchards.