Blue orchard mason bees eat their way out of mud chambers between late February & May.
Males first, then females when daytime temperatures average around 14C (57F). Males wait near the nest for females to emerge and mating begins immediately. Females then search for suitable nesting sites and begin foraging. This is when pollination of your fruit trees etc happens. The female collects pollen & mixes it with nectar to make a pollen lump which she puts into the nest along with the egg that she lays on top of the lump. She then closes off that nest and begins again until she has laid all her eggs, or until she dies.
SUMMER: The egg hatches into a larva or grub, which feeds on the pollen lump & grows. Growth rate varies depending on ambient temperature. Once fully grown it rests, then spins a cocoon and changes to a pupa. By the end of summer, it develops into an adult bee inside the cocoon. By September the cocoon contains an adult bee.
FALL AND WINTER: Both male and female remain in cocoons until next spring. Males are the first to emerge. Their cells are closest to the entrance of the nest and they are more vulnerable in winter to insect eating birds like woodpeckers, thus protecting the females somewhat.
NEST LOCATION: Nests should be placed where they will get morning sun (facing east), protected from wind rain, at a height of 1.5 M (5 ft) high, on a wall, building, or tree. Ideally near nesting materials.
CLEANING AND CARE: From October to December adults are secure in their cocoon and can safely be removed from bee house. Cocoons will need to be cleaned (1tbs bleach to 4 quarts water)
and dried then stored in a small box or container. Store in a dry cool location until spring when adults will emerge. Clean mason bee house thoroughly to eliminate mites & disease, replace straw hole liners & return to your hanging location.
BUYING COCOONS TO RELEASE? We seasonally stock mason bee cocoons (packs of 10, mixed female and male) Just ask at the cash desk, as they’re kept in cold storage to remain dormant.
Once you’ve purchased, and the weather is warm enough, we recommend placing container facing east, where it will receive morning sun, in a location protected from the elements. DO NOT place the cocoons in the tubes – the adults will select their own tube to lay their young in. Simply attach/tape the box and open one end. The bees will the emerge from their cocoons and leave. Ideally, the fruit trees you want pollinated are nearby.