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Keeping Mason Bees

45 comments


I promised folk that I would do a blog on keeping Mason Bees, now these are NOT the type of bee that drills into cement and ruins the pointing, these are little humble bees that do most of the pollinating in and around our gardens, these are the ‘bees knees’ ! Lol. I have been keeping bees for a number of years now and I will try to explain how its done but might forget to tell you obvious things, so forgive me.
I have taken last years bees out of the shed now as it is turning warm (pic.4) and have cleared their space on the garage shelf (Pic 3.). If you dont have a shelf like mine your ‘nest boxes’ need to be placed in a warm, south facing if poss.(although my shelf is East facing) sunny spot that is dry about a metre off the ground. Now dryness is important because they cannot be allowed to get wet and soggy or the bees could die. The cardboard tubes(Pic 3.) are the bee’s permanent home for nine months or more of its short life as it develops from an egg through a larval stage, into adulthood and it is in these containers that I store the bees away into our garage or shed for the cold wet winter, you can see I put them into a basket(pic. 1.) and pop them on a shelf and then forget about them until around now/spring time.

Picture 1.
These are last years tubes that have been overwintering in our shed. I have managed to fit the used tubes into three containers and I hope that there are plenty of new bees waiting to emerge.

Picture 2.
An ideal shelf to keep the containers on.(needs a clean! Lol)

Pic. 3
Here are the new nesting cardboard tubes which you can buy in bulk from places like wiggly wigglers/c.j.wild birds Ltd or you can simply drill into pieces of wood that would be fine as long as the holes are between 2/10mm. in diameter and about 7" deep. Each tube/hole holds about six egg cells, each one wrapped in its own little compartment, so you can see how your bee population expands.

Pic.4
Last years bees, out of storage and back on their shelf to start over again. They will start to come out around the end of April. you will see activity on a nice warm day.

Pic 5.
You can now see that I have last years ‘babies’ (on the bottom row) these are the tubes that have been filled with a mud plug (They use mud as a plaster, to wall up their cells, which gave them the name of Mason Bees, ‘mason’ being an old word for a builder of plastering) to keep the bees babies safe and two lots of new housing tubes on top, for this year.. One of these housing tubes is in an old drainpipe that OH cut to size for me, this is the first time i have done this so hoping it will work. As the new babies emerge from their cocoons and there are about six babies to each tube, they will start all over again and re-build new nests in the new tubes. These little busy creatures are facinating and safe to keep, they will not sting or harm you as long as you leave them be. Our grandson loves watching them and as he is used to them being there all summer, he just runs past and plays.Be patient with your ‘tubes’, if this is the first year that you have them then they might not take up residence until next year, however, you never know, fingers crossed and hope and remember you are doing a grand job in trying to help save our bees and we all know that they need saving. (I hope Muddy, reads this!)

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Comments

 

I think I could do this one year GM...South facing Window ledge and a old outside Lav to store them over winter....Faved the blog for ref.

12 Mar, 2012

 

How interesting, might try them myself (not)

12 Mar, 2012

 

Wow, thoroughly enjoyed reading this. I would like to give this a try. I have a little bee house which I have mounted up on the fence and I have a small pile of hollowed out bamboo tubes in a corner in the garden. I do hope they have been home to some insects during the winter.
When would be the best time to introduce these into the garden?
I've added this to favs for future reference.

12 Mar, 2012

 

And I have , Scots ; Grandmage is so informative and inspiring , I really must set to .
Amy bought something like this the other day in Morrisons , but I haven't managed to get there yet .
It looks like I have finally found a use for all my saved cling-film and foil tubes , ( I knew that they would come in somewhere ) !

12 Mar, 2012

 

I drilled some holes in breeze block Grandmage for this idea - some small and some big :)))))))))

12 Mar, 2012

 

oh what a fab blog, thank you, I am going to give this a go, have got an outhouse they could overwinter in there. what a great thing to do just my cup of tea. manythanks am inspired.

12 Mar, 2012

 

I like the idea of bee keeping like this. I have an old drain pipe I can cut into pieces and am raring to go :) Are both ends left open?

12 Mar, 2012

 

Pim. outside lavvy sounds just fine!!! Sheilar why not?
Scottish= has your bee house been occupied do you know? Had any of the holes been filled with dirt? Take a look and if yes then you are on the way. Now is the time to start, well to set things up, and then the bees will get going when they are ready.
Driad, it was Amy's box that got me thinking that I should share what I do with you all! The only trouble with cling film tubes would be that they are not water proof, my cardboard tubes are in a waterproof cover you see. Ok.
Paul, brilliant, you have made a start and if it becomes a success you could add another, good idea.
Caz. I am glad you are going to try, start soon and then you wont miss this years season.
Gee. My OH blocked the back of the drainpipe so that any tubes are kept dry against damp etc. also it stops the tubes from moving. If you look at the containers that you buy they are enclosed at the back.
Thanks a million for wanting to help Goyers. We really need to help these very important creatures in any way we can. x

12 Mar, 2012

 

That was interesting. You're doing a great job :o)

12 Mar, 2012

 

I also cemented a block and got a bamboo cane and made about 6 inch holes all along Grandmage :)))))))))))

13 Mar, 2012

 

Brilliant Paul, it helps all creatures find a safe haven. Keep an eye on the holes later on and see if they get plugged with mud! Thanks Hywel, you could do it too!

13 Mar, 2012

 

great blog GM very interesting ,must give it a try thanks :-))

13 Mar, 2012

 

Grandmage...went out first thing this morning to check on my wee bee house - sadly not one of the little holes have been covered over :(( The hollowed out bamboo canes have no signs either but hey ho...I'm thinking that the wee house is maybe in far to much of an open site I will try find somewhere a bit more sheltered an re site the box during the week.
If you check out the blog I'm going to do shortly then you can see what I did find :)...and it was almost a sad ending!!

13 Mar, 2012

 

Brilliant Helen, its so easy. and Scottish, be patient, sometimes the bees dont come the first year, they may even take a look around their new abode and save it for another year, Lol. Maybe take a photo of where it is situated and we can see then if it is alright. Going to see your blog now.

13 Mar, 2012

 

Thankyou Grandmage, I found this a fascinating and very imformative blog..

15 Mar, 2012

 

I have!!!
Mine will be going into the garden this weekend. Excellent blog and photos Grandmage - thank you for the reminder. :-))

16 Mar, 2012

 

I have just purchased some ready-cut bamboo canes - they have different size openings so may not attract just the one type of bee though. Now all I need to do is slice up my spare drain pipe and I will be in business, I hope. Thanks for the info, Grandmage :)

16 Mar, 2012

 

Your welcome Lincs. & Muddy, dont forget! Gee, your canes will be fine because you will attract other bees too & maybe other insects as well. Make sure the drain pipe is longer so it shelters the entrance holes and keeps them dry. Good luck now.

16 Mar, 2012

 

I was checking out Littleover Apiary , ( they have just started to advertize ) when I saw an ad for a Complete Beekeeping Kit , everything you need plus a nucleus of bees (delivered ) for £425 !
www.fragile-planet.co.uk
The wild ones are a cheaper bet , and less labour intensive but no honey .

17 Mar, 2012

 

Thats very expensive isnt it Driad? These tubes above are so cheap and easy to make yourself with bamboo sticks, have a go.

17 Mar, 2012

 

Yes I intend to have a go , Gee's canes sound good .
I don't think I would bee brave enough to keep honey bees , although it was a dream of mine with the "Good Life " in the 70's .

17 Mar, 2012

 

I agree, I would have loved to too, but they are quite high maintenance I gather, will have to leave it the experts, in the meantime this method is simpler.

17 Mar, 2012

 

My bee/insect hotel is now in place. Put it together yesterday with a spare piece of drainpipe (ends sealed with circular cut outs from soft plastic plant pots), wired together and bamboo rods inserted. I will wait for the first arrivals with great anticipation :) Photo uploaded!

24 Mar, 2012

 

Brill Gee, they should start looking in about a months time if it is warm weather! Will look at photos now. x

24 Mar, 2012

 

Just wanted to tell you all that my bees are very busy, buzzing around and building in their new tubes. So far and they are a month late this year due to the wet weather (they are so clever!) twelve new tubes have been filled (that is potentially 72 new bees as each tube has six cells in each) If you want to check your tubes, take a peek and see if any tube has mud plugging the opening! If it has then eureka, but dont despair if not, there is plenty of time yet.
Byeeeee.

27 May, 2012

 

GM, I'm a newbie to gardening & have been having a nosey around Goy, as you do.
Marvelous blog!
I'm regarded as a bit of a weirdo, 'cos my immediate reaction to a bee (wasp, etc) is to shepherd it back into the open from my flat, any other building, or from inside any form of public transport.
I've only been stung once in my life, as I rolled over onto a wasp, while sunbathing, so the wasp could hardly be blamed. Lol.
I'd expected, on joining Goy, to find a more tolerant crowd towards bees & other flying pollenators, so it was with delight that I read that you are a vocal supporter of bees, (Unchanged for 20 million yrs), & not only a beekeeper, but one who actively teaches & encourages others to do the same.
Sadly, I share a communal back court & try as I might, I'd be unable to convince my neighbours to let me give it a go.
These are the same neighbours that beat my door down to get me to rid them of flying 'beasties', as they're termed, here, in Glasgow!
I hope you can convert many more to keeping bees & that you 'tell your bees all your news'.
Thanks, again for a wonderful blog!

25 Mar, 2013

 

How kind Mouldy.......I decided to keep these little bees because they 'just get on with it', they dont need my help, well not really, only to protect them during the winter months, that's all. They are fascinating to watch when in their frenzy to nest just buzz in and out of their tubes, such hard working creatures and without them we will have no flowers, fruit or veg!! Thanks for reading my blog Mouldy.

29 Mar, 2013

 

Yeah, I just wish folk, who swat, stamp & spray with such abandon, would take a few minutes to look at the bigger picture, but as long as the produce keeps turning up in the shops they never get the urge to ask "How does this come about?"
They can only see the creatures' sting or honey.
That's why I'm so glad you did this blog.
Who knows, maybe you'll come back as a bee?! Lol.

29 Mar, 2013

 

Maybee Mouldy!!! Lol

30 Mar, 2013

 

Time for me to buzz off, before I start thinking I 'm the bees knees! Lol.

31 Mar, 2013

 

Lol Mouldy. :)

31 Mar, 2013

 

Hi BIbo. it is far too late this year I'm afraid, my bees worked fast and furious this year, due to the cold they started late, but equally and frantically they did their thing and finished nesting by about the beginning of June. I leave the full tubes in their spot for the rest of the summer and come sept/oct (if very wet, well before) I pop them in the garage for the winter to bring them out again next april/may (again depending on weather). I get my tubes from wriggly wrigglers and sometimes on Amazon. The used tubes contain next years bees, so I put them all out on my shelf (in circular container) or sawn off drain pipe if you like, I have one that my hubb made and it worked well as long as one end is closed to keep tubes safe. When the bees start to emerge, usually a nice warm sunny day, they will buzz around and start to re-nest again using the old tubes, but I always provide new ones too to save them hard work! I like the idea of drilling into the posts you will also get ladybirds and lacewings taking refuge too. Our grandchildren love to watch the bees at work but never go near them, they run and play and take no notice now so that is a good thing, they are harmless but as you know any creature that is pushed will retaliate! Hope this all makes sense :)

5 Aug, 2013

 

Funny isn't it B. Come to think of it i haven't seen a single ladybird either. :( It has also been a good year for roses too and they usually get covered with aphids don't they?

5 Aug, 2013

 

Oh yes the rain has been cruel, but generally it has been the year of the rose!

5 Aug, 2013

 

Maybe prune that rose right down to the ground, my dad used to do that and his roses were gorgeous. Plus a bit of 'muck' around them too. I have just purchased a climber, very pretty pink and will plant that as soon as. My others are in pots like yours, perhaps they need a good feed.

5 Aug, 2013

 

Ah. sorry, no, you can't then!! Lol

6 Aug, 2013

 

Thanks for this Grandmage, it's really interesting and now we know what to expect and when, I was thinking that the bees would have overwintered in the tubes, but this will be so interesting next summer...:)). At the moment there is a diadem spider spending his nights in one of the bamboo tubes, hiding himself with a leaf door!

29 Aug, 2013

 

Good luck to the spider, he might have a rude awakening next spring!! These little mason bees are fascinating to watch when they are busy, they start up when it gets warm.

29 Aug, 2013

 

Will look forward to next year....:))

29 Aug, 2013

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