Orchard Mason Bees – 7 yrs at Royston House BB
Mason Bees showed up in march 2005, five months after we finished our West Coast style timber frame house. The recycled douglas fir timber posts seemed just the perfect place for Mason Bees to build their house in our house.
These 12″ x 12″ timber posts form part of the house structure and were bolted to 1/4″ steel plate with just over 1/4″ opening above the steel plate. One day I spotted the Mason Bees working and after they had filled most of the slots I figured it was time to drill out a block of wood to start a Mason Bee colony.
The Mason Bees only filled about 15 holes in the wood block the first year but they were putting their eggs in other places too like the hole in the end of an extension cord.
The Mason Bee blocks are usually only made from dry fir but we also have used dry cedar, an old alder stump and professionally made wood Mason Bee houses that come apart in order to clean and separate the egg cocoons for cold storage.
Every year since 2005 we have added 1 or 2 houses. I now drill these with as many holes as possible by offsetting them so we now can add up to 500 bees each year in the new houses. We give away several bee houses each year to people who don’t have one. These houses may include some bees if the time is right to move them.
Part of the secret to having a good Mason Bee crop is to have a continuous flow of flowering plants from march until mid june.
Our houses are placed in sunny spots around protected areas (undercover) on the east, west and south sides. Some Mason Bee Houses are mounted on posts or walls with others just sitting on a cement patio.
This year we had our best apple crop ever, even with a near total absence of honey bees. Our blueberry crop was also excellent.
Thank you Mason Bees who number at least 2000 in the 11 houses now in operation at Royston House. If you thought about having Mason Bees but haven’t tried, maybe you already have them and don’t know it – that was us. We just had to provide the holes – around 1/4″ x 5 or 6″ deep and the Bees took charge.
Beautiful blue/black and about the size of flies ( watch out for what you swat) but much nicer with their midnight blue colours and they are no trouble to look after. You will really enjoy watching them work and they won’t mind.