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Know Your Product

Orchard Mason Bees

As many of you have noticed, we began carrying Mason Bees. This has raised a lot of questions about the differences between Honey Bees and Mason Bees. We want to answer some of your frequently asked questions. To start off:

What are Mason Bees?
Mason Bees are a species of bees in the genus Osmia. There are many different species of Mason bees but we will be supplying the Orchard Mason Bee (Osmia Lignauria). Orchard Mason Bees are solitary bees, native to the Americas, that nest in naturally bored holes and cavities found in wood or reeds. Their excellent pollinating skills and low startup costs make them an attractive pollinator for gardeners. Those interested in harvesting honey or collecting beeswax will not have an interest in mason bees.

You may have already seen wild mason bees in your garden. They have a metallic blue or blue-black coating and are slightly smaller than a worker honey bee.

Why should I keep Mason Bees?
You are not necessarily “keeping” mason bees as you do honey bees but rather attracting them to stay by providing a nesting structure. The overall pros to keeping mason bees is:

  • They are low cost and low maintenance. You can provide nesting tubes and housing for less than $50. You could get by with cheaper but would not be aesthetically appealing.

  • Because of their gentle nature, they are less aggressive and less likely to sting. The perfect alternative to those who have trepidation to managing a honey bee colony.

  • They are very efficient pollinators. Three times better pollinators than honey bees when compared bee to bee. Excellent for backyard gardens and fruit trees.

  • Will Mason bees cause problems with my honey bees?
    Mason bees and honey bees can easily coexist. Mason bees rely upon pollen to feed their developing larvae, therefore, they will not seek out your honey bee hives to rob them of their honey stores and vice-versa; honey bees will find no resources to rob from mason bees. You can only benefit by maintaining a mason bees along with a honey bee colony.

    What equipment is needed for Mason Bees?
    These bees require sheltered nesting holes to lay their larvae in, pollen producing plants to feed the developing larvae, and mud to close off the nesting holes. You are all set if you have this. Mason bees will appreciate the convenience of an artificial nesting cartridge or cardboard tubes that are bundled together to make their nest. Place these nesting holes into a sheltered housing unit and once the females emerge, they will begin building their nests. You will also need space in your refrigerator come fall if you intend to harvest the cocoons to store over winter.

    What else do I need to get started?
    Once you have the house placed outside with the nesting cartridge and/or cardboard tubes, all you need is the cocoons. Mason Bees have many different subspecies and when ordering Mason Bee cocoons you should purchase bees based on your regional climate for the best bee health.

    It is highly recommended to purchase a cold pack when ordering mason bees. It will be shipped with the bees and help keep the temperature controlled so they do not begin emerging during transit.

    Please call 1-800-233-7929 if you have any additional questions.