BeeGuardian: fine mesh bag for protecting developing cocoons
Mason Bee Mud: dry mud to mix with your soil to enhance spring mason bee production
Chalet House Features:
Natural cedar wood sealed with protective clear coat finish.
Peaked roof to drain excess rain.
2″ overhang helps protect nesting material from rain.
Keyhole slot in back for easy installation and removal.
Can be placed on secure shelf or mounted to wall or fence.
Convenient cocoon release shelf (attic area) under the roof
This kit ships year round. Chalet House, nesting trays, booklet and accessories ship at time of order. Bee cocoons will ship in season after you redeem.
Native Bee Basics
Introducing Native Hole-nesting Bees to Your Garden
How to support your garden and your bee community without the effort of raising honeybees – This is the first of three useful guest blogs by our pollinator-supporting friends over at Crown Bees of Woodinville, Washington. See the blog post here: https://gardentowerproject.com/…
Planting a food garden is a labor of love. Gardeners put so much time and effort into the work of creating and maintaining a garden, but we don’t always give much thought to pollination. We tend to take bees and their work for granted because bee populations have historically been robust and thriving.
Many gardeners wish they could raise honeybees to ensure their garden’s pollination but raising honeybees takes a lot of time, money and training. And some communities don’t allow honey beekeeping because of safety concerns. The problems facing honeybee populations are well known and honeybees are not the only bees suffering due to habitat loss, pollution, disease, and climate change.
Alternative bees to the rescue:
Mason bees and leafcutter bees are alternatives to honey bees that gardeners can rely on and they are better pollinators, easier to raise, cheaper, and most importantly, safer for children.
Blue orchard mason bees (Osmia lignaria) are one of North America’s 3,600 native bee species (honey bees are from Europe). Alfalfa leafcutter bees were introduced in the 1940’s in order to save and maintain the alfalfa feed industry. Alfalfa leafcutter bees are now naturalized across North America. Both mason and leafcutter bees are solitary, hole-nesting bees that are superior pollinators and we can raise in our gardens and farms.
Why are they superior pollinators?
Honey bees carry pollen packed wet onto special hairy plates on their hind legs. Mason and leafcutter bees don’t have these special structures on their legs, instead they have special hairs on the underside of their bellies. Pollen is carried dry and loose on the large surface area of their hairy bellies and pollen falls off easily at every flower visited. One mason bee can carry out the pollination action of 100-200 honeybees!
Mason bees emerge in cooler, wetter, and windier weather than honey bees. Mason and leafcutter bees have a short flying range from their nests to flowers of only 300 feet. Mason and leafcutter bees are not picky about the flowers they visit. Because they are generalists, you can be assured that they are staying close to their home and pollinating your gardens and orchards. Almost every bee, except for a social queen, has a flying life span of about 4-6 weeks. Each solitary mason and leafcutter female bee has a feeling of urgency to get their parenting duties done and this makes them wake up earlier, stay out later, and fly in worse weather.
Are they really gentle and easy to raise?
Because they don’t have a colony and stores of honey and pollen to protect, solitary bees are typically much less aggressive and don’t mind you watching them come and go to their nesting house.
Solitary bees overwinter in cocoons, making them easy to handle and move. The steps for raising mason and leafcutter bees are really simple: set up the bee house and nesting materials, release cocoons, wait as they work, protect filled nesting materials, harvest cocoons, repeat! There’s no need to feed and upkeep honey stores in the winter since the bees are sleeping in cocoons.
What are solitary bees?
Honey bees and bumblebees are social bees with only one fertile female bee in the colony. We all know social bees pretty well and we grew up learning about how they live. But actually, almost 99% of the world’s 21,000+ bee species do not live in social structures. Non-social bees are called solitary bees and every solitary bee is fertile. Each solitary female bee lives and works on her own and she has all the responsibility to take care of her young.
What are hole-nesting bees?
About 70% of bee species build their nests underground and individual bees can share a main tunnel entrance. About 30% of bees nest in holes like an old grub tunnel in dead wood or the hollow of a branch or stem. We can’t raise ground-nesting bees very easily but we can raise hole-nesting bees because we can recreate their nesting holes, harvest their cocoons, and move them to where we need them. Solitary bees do not live in hives, instead we call the structures we build for them bee houses.
A female bee claims a nesting hole as her own and starts building nesting chambers in the very back of the hole first. Each nesting chamber is made up of a mix of pollen and nectar (called a pollen loaf), a single egg, and a protective wall. Mason bees use moist clayey mud to build walls between nesting chambers. Leafcutter bees build protective leafy cocoons, all in a line, with
each cocoon separated from each other with a layer of leaves. When the female is done with one nesting hole she protects the nest with an extra thick layer of nest building material called a capped end. These capped ends let us know that the bee house was used.
Which bees are right for me?
Mason bees emerge in the early spring when weather is consistently warmer than 55*F. They are great pollinators of fruit and nut trees and blueberry and strawberry bushes. Leafcutter bees emerge in early summer when the weather warms above 70*F. Leafcutter bees pollinate melon, squash, pea, and summer vegetables and flowers.
You can raise both bees in the same bee house, just swap out nesting materials from mason bees and replace it with leafcutter materials. Mason bees prefer 8mm nesting holes and leafcutter bees prefer 6mm sized nesting holes.
Ensure your garden’s pollination
Raising mason and leafcutter bees will help your garden grow more and grow better fruit and vegetables. Many flowers need to be visited many times in order to grow fruit at all. For example, a pear flower needs to be pollinated 30 times to make fruit! A flower that is properly pollinated will grow fruit that is rounder, fuller, and healthier. Adding a different bee species to your garden or farm can increase your yield by 24%! All of the effort that you put into your garden will be rewarded when you raise gentle solitary hole-nesting bees.
Want to get started?
See our native bee keeping supplies and pollinator kits at this link:
Each female summer leafcutter bee is a fertile queen and does all of the work to take care of her young. No honey, no need to aggressively defend her nest or eggs. These bees are gentle! Summer bees build nesting chambers in small pre-made holes. Each nesting chamber is made of a protective cocoon that the female bee builds out of leaves or petals. The female bee gathers pollen and nectar into a pollen loaf to feed a single egg within each chamber. After she lays an egg she seals each chamber with more leaves. A female bee will build approximately 10 chambers in each six inch nesting hole. If the weather is still warm enough, she’ll choose another nesting hole and continue pollinating.
Most bees, including honey bees, are only actively flying as adults for 5-6 weeks. A honey bee queen can live for about a year producing eggs for her hive and she rarely flies. A female solitary bee such as the leafcutter bee, can lay an egg a day and will continue to do so until her wings become too worn and tattered.
Your summer bees gather pollen differently than honey bees. Honey bees pack wet pollen into pockets on their hind legs with little falling off. While honey bees are not good individual pollinators, they are better through sheer numbers. Summer bees gather dry pollen and carry it on their hairy abdomens. The dry, loose pollen falls onto each flower they land on and virtually every flower they land on is pollinated!
Steps For Success
Sign up for BeeMail:We really want you to succeed raising solitary bees. CrownBees monthly BeeMail specifically tells you what to do and what to expect each month with your solitary bees. We also include a little bit of science or other fun news.
They will never sell or share your email address.
Schedule Your Bees: Your bees are pollinators and should arrive when your target plants are in bloom. If you plant beans in May, but they do not blossom until late June, have your bees arrive in late June! We mail leafcutter bees each Monday, May through August, via the USPS (First Class mail).
Your summer bees prefer warm temperatures. They fly best when daytime temperatures are consistently in the high 70’s through lower 100’s (21°-38°C). They can fly in lower 70°F temperatures but they will be less active.
Redeem Your Garden Bee Certificate: When you are ready, visit crownbees.com/certificate and enter the unique code found your certificate.
Complete Your Contact & Shipping Information: If you are a worker bee, consider having your bees mailed to your work rather than to your home. We don’t want bees sitting for hours in a hot mail box and they would prefer to spend a day in the office with you. You will receive an email with your USPS tracking number on the day your bees ship so you will know when to expect delivery.
Install Your BeeHaven,Hut or Chalet: Bees prefer early morning sun, the warmth waking them up early and off to work. If you live in a particularly warm region, +100°F/28°C, locate your bee house in some afternoon shade. Leafcutter bees are not long-distance travelers and will fly 300ft (100m) from home. Install your BeeHaven, Hut or Chalet house close to the center of your garden on a stationary surface where it can be left for the entire season.
Consider mounting your BeeHaven, Hut or Chalet at eye level, allowing for easy viewing. These bees can be very entertaining to watch as they fly in and out of their nesting holes covered in pollen or carrying leaves or petals. The BeeHaven, Hut or Chalet house is equipped with a keyhole for easy mounting on a post, fence or wall using a nail or screw. Watch this video on how easy it is to set up your BeeHaven, Hut or Chalet house and get started raising gentle summer bees! [VIDEO]
When the Bees Arrive: Finally, your summer flowers are blooming for your bees! Place the entire package in your refrigerator for 10-15 minutes to slow down any eager bees that have emerged. While summer bees are gentle and typically not aggressive, they are bees that can sting if they feel life-threatened. Handle them respectfully.
Releasing the bees: Placing the bees into the BeeHaven, Hut or Chalet is easy. Open the chilled bag of bees and place it on top of the paper tubes in the BeeHaven, Hut or Chalet. Ensure the bag opening is facing out and doesn’t interfere with the paper nesting tubes. Push the bag gently into the BeeHaven, Hut or Chalet with one of the paper tubes so that it is protected from the sun. Emerged bees should begin crawling out immediately. Those still be in their cocoon will emerge within the next few weeks as the warm weather completes their incubation.
What to Expect From Your Summer Bees
When they emerge from cocoons, the males can be easily identified by their green eyes and their overall lighter body color. Males will emerge first and females will emerge a few days or even a week or two later. Within a day or so of emerging, you should find females beginning to nest in their nesting tube. Be patient and remember that it can take time to see evidence of female bees using their BeeHaven, Hut or Chalet.
Female summer bees will be active for about 4-5 weeks until their wings are so ragged they cannot fly any longer. The eggs they laid are next year’s bee cocoons! Summer bees are small and you may or may not see them on your garden flowers but your garden’s yield should be higher. Consider sharing your harvest with a local food bank or neighbors.
For warmer summers, you may find that your leafcutter bees may emerge a second or third generation as the heat encourages the newly formed eggs to hatch, develop, and then emerge.
Please remember that all bees are wild insects. We can do our best to encourage them to nest and work within our yards and gardens, but they are free to fly and nest where they choose. Bees are part of a natural system that includes predators and prey, and sadly, some bees may be eaten by birds or other animals.
We have seen evidence that lawn treatments and sprayed chemicals in yards repel most bees. The fumes from your neighbor’s chemicals may drift into your yard and could discourage the bees.
Create a BeeReady Garden
To a bee, lawns are vast green deserts that lack nectar, pollen, and nutrients for themselves and their eggs. Reconsider the function of your lawn and create a BeeReady garden with native trees, bushes, shrubs and perennials. If you haven’t done so yet, try raising some food to share. Tomatoes, beans, squash, or peas are all easy-to-raise.
The leafcutter bee is a generalist and gathers her pollen from most flowers, but the best pollen sources are native plants and food-growing plants. Consider planting flowers in large clumps. Bees are energy conscious and would rather gather pollen in one area rather than individual flowers.
Leafcutter bees use small bits of leaves or flower petals to line and separate each egg chamber. The optimal leaf is similar in thickness and texture to a rose leaf. It is slightly flexible so that the leaf cuts easily and can be curled and carried back to her nesting hole. Semi-circular holes in leaves are a natural sign of a healthy garden. You may be surprised that you do not find any bee-cut holes in plants within your yard and wonder where they are gathering leaves.