Native mason bee for backyard gardens, part II

Published 7:00 am Friday, June 17, 2016

Aside from flowers, pollinators need refuge from pesticides and shelter to lay their eggs and to spend the winter.
Installing bee houses for native bees is less costly and time consuming than honey bee management. You won’t have to pick up an 80lb hive or clean it every 21 days.
Tom Heim is making bee houses to sell at The Crosby Arboretum —- buy local and get a house suitable for our southern native bees.
Definition of “Native” is controversial. The term refers to bees that existed in the U.S. prior to 1513-the advent of European expansion to the New World. Most everyone agrees that a “Native” bee is one that originated in North America.
Our roughly 4,000 species of native bees, as a group, are overlooked. (The honeybee is not native to North America, but in fact, it was first imported by Europeans in the 1600s.) Our native bees represent an amazing diversity of species. They range from large bumblebees that form social colonies of a single queen and her daughter-workers, to tiny metallic blue or green sweat bees that excavate nests in the ground and live solitary lives, laying few eggs on a pollen provision and not living long enough to see their offspring hatch.
Many native bees have complex life cycles. Some nest inside snail shells, some construct elaborate origami-like nests out of carefully folded leaf pieces. And, they have cozy relationships with specific native plants, emerging for only a few weeks each year when their preferred wildflower blooms.
■ Why Use Native Bees for Crop Pollination?
■ They are docile.
■ They are efficient pollinators so few bees are needed (~250 females / acre).
■ They may be more active in poor weather.
■ They are not active after bloom so pesticides have a limited effect.
■ Pollination by native bees may compliment honey bee activity.
■ They are one of the state’s natural resources and should be conserved.
Female orchard mason bee. Seals end of tube with mud. Short foraging range about 100 yards from the nest.
Many native bees prefer cavities in wood, cardboard, or styrofoam to build their nests.
Cut 2×4 or 6” long aged softwood—pine
Mark 5/16” holes at least ¼” apart.
Drill 5/16th”holes into soft wood, such as pine
It is difficult to drill the holes straight in the wood.
Paint with two coats of waterbased white paint
Drill 2 small pilot holes in middle of one side of the block being careful not to intersect with the predrilled bee holes. Cut 2– 4” pieces of metal strapping. Use short wood screws with large heads to affix 4” metal strapping to one side of the block.
Seal one of the block with metal tape and put a pinch of clean sand into each bee hole to guard against bee getting stuck on the tape.
PRCMG donated two native bee condos to MS Regional Master Gardeners Conference in Natchez complete with reference books.
On Feb 3, 2012, Dr. Blair Sampson, USDA, Poplarville, (601) 403-8765 gave the PRCMGs a presentation on his research with native mason bees. Then he conducted a workshop on how to make native blueberry orchard bee houses. Each PRCMG started making 2 bee houses and would finish them at home. PRCMGs plan to install them in their gardens in February per Dr. Sampson’s instructions— face SE, tilt down to eliminate rain and at least 3” off the ground. We are to note location, SE face, tilt, and height off ground for his research.
Since 2012, Dr. Sampson returned to the PRCMGs meeting in November to evaluate our collection. The project is ongoing. For more information about the Pearl River County Master Gardeners or Native Bees, call the Extension office at 601-403-2280.

By Eileen Hollander, MSU-ES Pearl River County
Extension Service Master Gardener

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