Orchard Mason Bee FAQ
What is a Mason Bee?
Orchard Mason (Osmia Lignaria) are solitary bees that nest in holes and cavities found in wood. They pollinate but do not produce honey.
What is the different between a Mason Bee & Honey Bee?
The biggest difference between Mason and honey bees is Mason bees are less aggressive and do not product honey. Mason bees only collect pollen to produce a “bee bread” to feed their growing larvae. Their foraging season and lifespan only last around 5 weeks.
Why should I start a mason bee hive?
Mason bees are perfect for those looking to pollinate a garden or orchard but do not want to maintain a full hive of honey bees or concerned with producing honey. Mason bees are a less aggressive breed of bees and, while they can sting, it is a mild sting and have pushed hard to become aggressive.
When should I start a Mason Bee Hive?
Because Mason bees can thrive in colder environments than honey bees, their season starts earlier. The cocoons typically start hatching around March-April. We have supplies and cocoons available for purchase now and the cocoons can be stored in a 36-38 F fridge until you are ready to set them out to hatch. You will want to set them out when the temperatures consistently hover around 50 F.
When ordering mason bees, they actually ship best when the temperatures are cold (mid upper 30’s). The cold temperatures keep the cocoons cold enough that they won’t hatch during shipment. We also sell a cold pack that we recommend you also purchase when ordering mason bees. It will be shipped with the bees and help keep the temperature controlled. Mason bees ship via Priority Mail only unless being picked up from our retail store.
What will I need to care for Mason bees?
Mason bees are very low maintenance. You will need somewhere to protect them from the weather and pests and provide them nearby access to pollinator plants (their foraging range is much smaller than honey bees). Mason bees lay their eggs in deep shallow holes in wooden structures. You can drill holes into a log to provide shelter, but if you are wanting to provide better shelter for the bees we provide housing that you can fill with predrilled cartridges or hollow cardboard tubes. You will want to provide the openings in the housing plenty of sunlight but also keep them protected from moisture. Using cartridges and tubes also make it much easier to remove the access the cocoons for winter storage.
What about during the winter?
Even though mason bees can thrive in colder temperatures than honey bees, they still should not be exposed to subfreezing temperatures. Any cocoons/hives left out past October could become exposed to potential subfreezing weather. You will want to remove the cocoons from their housing and store them into a refrigerator around 36-38 F (you would want to remove the cocoons from the cartridges but you can refrigerator while still in the tubes).