OT: Does anyone know of a source of orchard mason bees?

gardenbetty at earthlink.net gardenbetty at earthlink.net
Wed Mar 31 17:52:24 EST 1999


The orchard mason bee or hornfaced bee (same family--osmia) are easy to
steward. They are solitary bees that nest in predrilled holes. They usually
take abandoned beetle tunnels in trees, but will take quite well to any 5/16"
ish hole. For best female production--the pollinating sex--you should
/cleanly/ drill a non pressure treated block full of  5/16" holes 6" deep. If
you can sand smooth the bottom of the hole, even better. Hang the block in the
orchard and either stock it with bees or wait for them to come. The bees have
a range of about 10o yards. They emerge as the fruit trees come into bloom,
pollinate like crazy, taking the pollen back to their holes for storage. As
the fruit flower period ends, the female lays eggs in the stored pollen in the
holes, then "masons" the hole shut with mud. For this reason, they like to
have a water source nearby within their range. Once the nest is sealed they
die. Over and done in no time. Great for fruit, no so great for veggies. Warm
weather honeybees and cool weather osmia bees are perfect compliments.

Because of this habit, they are not affected by varroa mite or other honeybee
plagues. However, their nests can become fodder for parasitic wasps and
certain fungi. To solve this, there are different commercial products
available to osmia bee stewards: paper straws replaced yearly to line the
nesting holes provide a clean, dry fungus-free environment; and guard tubes to
block entry by parasitic wasps. These products are available very cheaply and
once you see how they are made, you can improvise your own if you want to take
the time and effort. Some people put ultra fine mesh screening over the blocks
to prevent wasps. Some just take their blocks down once the nest is sealed and
store them in the fridge till the next year. However osmia bees are very
prolific reproducers: by year 5 you could easily have to buy a fridge just to
house your bees!

You could also try drilling other size holes and see what kind of creatures
show up. At different widths, you can encouraged leaf-cutter bees (warm
weather solitary bees), beneficial parasitic wasps, and various mystery
beelike insects I've yet to identify but seem to cause no harm.

I strongly recommend this website by the US authority on these bees.

good luck!

aka gardenbetty

We will be known by the tracks we leave behind... —Dakota proverb

FranksFarm at aol.com wrote:
> Hi Guy,
> Thanks for the very interesting post on Orchard Bees.
> I'd like to include bees in my plans ...but am a rank amateur .
> Perhaps somewhere down the road. Can you tell me what you need toraise these
> kind of bees...are they resistant to varroa mite that has ravaged so many
> hives?
> Happy Easter to all.   Namaste:)  Frank
> ---
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