Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Time to bring in the bees...(I actually did this 2 weeks ago, but anyway)...it's that time of year, before the most bitter cold sets in, to take down the mason bee house and store the bees for winter. I do this because it's in the instructions that came with the house when I bought it, but I have observed the bees nesting in the crevices on the outside of my house, so perhaps they'd winter over okay without my help. I'd rather be sure though, so I'll follow procedure. As you can see, they filled most all the tubes with larvae......they even used tiny bits of plant leaves to cover some of the openings.......looks like one hatched out already! Perhaps due to a frosty cold spell that was followed by a warm spell already. I know this hole wasn't made by a hungry woodpecker though, since that situation was already adressed this year. Ah well, I'm sure there are plenty of sleeping babies left in here.So I whip out my trusty needle-nosed pliers to remove the tubes without traumatizing the larvae......then put the straws into this "release box" that has holes in it for the awakening bees to fly out of in spring. This will be attached to the bottom of the nest box at that time.These are the old straws that this year's bees had hatched out of. I'd left them in the release box all summer, just in case there were stragglers. Now I'll compost them-more benefit! From the look of the old straws, you can see why this block is more entomologically sound than solid blocks with no tubes...yucky! Now I'll fill the nest block with clean straws for next year, as well as replace any damaged cardboard liners.

There! All set for new tenants next year. I put the larvae-filled tubes in the back of the fridge for the winter...sleep tight friends!


13 comments:

Bob said...

I have wanted to have bees for the longest time. Next spring at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show I'll have to purchase some. Thanks for the reminder.
Mason bees are very important here in my area. They are the pollinator for the home gardeners apple and pear trees. Often the first bees out in spring.

Your posts are always fun and interesting. I always look forward to them, Bob

Katie said...

This was really informative and made me want to actually buy the Mason Bee cans I see advertised in garden catalogs! It's easier than I thought!

Thanks for the inspiration!

Yolanda Elizabet said...

Very interesting post Lisa. I always wondered if and how those bee houses worked!

lisa said...

Bob-Aww...thank you! I really enjoy keeping these bees, it's easy, and as you pointed out, they hatch out early to pollinate early-flowering crops. And they are specifically interested in "stone and pome" fruits, which is great for my nanking cherry bushes and plum trees.

Katie-You're very welcome! They ARE very easy, and I think it's always worthwhile to encourage pollinators-they give us more flowers!

Yolanda-Thank you! From your blog I can tell that you already have a lot of pollination sucess...all the yummy fruits and veggies you get to harvest. But I do believe that with bees, more is better!

Vanillalotus said...

I've never heard of this before. I would get one but I constantly have bees flying into my face without having a nest. They must think I'm a flower or something ha.

vonne said...

I found out yesterday that I have mason bees nesting in an old fence post!! Yay!
I was just about to order the nest box, but i think I'll hold off now and let them do their own thing.

lisa said...

Vanillalotus-Yea, if I had bees "buzzing me" all the time, I doubt that increasing their population would be a priority.

Vonne-Congratulations! I agree, if they're already established and happy, I'd say you're set!

Blackswamp_Girl said...

Lisa... I want to be as cool and fun as you are someday. Seriously.

lisa said...

Kim-Aw....thanks for that, but you are WAY cool right now!

Ki said...

Wow, that seems like a lot of work! I thought it would be cool to make nests for native bees, like the blue orchard bee, mason bees and bumblebees but never got around to drilling holes in wood and building underground chambers for the ground nesters. We seem to have an abundance of native bees in any case so I let this "yet another hobby" pass.

MrBrownThumb said...

How cool is that? I've never heard of such a thing before. But I love bees and anyone who keeps them should be encouraged. Good luck with them next year.

snappy said...

Lisa, you are the Bee queen.I have heard of bee houses but not realised how much you have to do to overwinter them.Are they Confederate bees?Mason-dixie bees?
I love bees and photographing them when they stay still for long enough!

lisa said...

Ki-I don't find their maintenance to be much work really, and believe me-as a lazy person that's saying something! ;-) But as a fellow "project collector", I understand the logic to resist temptation when you're able. Everytime I think I want to get into orchids, I remind myself how crazy I can get with jumping in and buying all possibly necessary equipment, etc., and I say "Okay now....back away slowly..." ;-)

Mr Brownthumb-Thank you! I toyed with the idea of honeybees at first, since my uncle had kept them, and I remember how cool it was. But I also recall the work he put into them, and these guys are so much less. I have enjoyed sucess with these bees for about 4 years now, and it's been great! I only handle the nest and tubes twice a year, and the bees hibernate in a 4x4" box in the back of the fridge all winter. No sweat!

Snappy-Heh, since I am so far North, I'd say they'd be Yankee bees, though I prefer American bees! :) They can be hard to catch on film, but it sure is fun following them around!