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Home Orchard Society Forums - View topic - How are your mason bees doing?
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 How are your mason bees doing? 
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Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2006 1:49 pm
Posts: 221
Location: Rochester, WA
Post How are your mason bees doing?
Mine sure are doing well this year. I think I finally have them trained to stay home. I have heard they are great pollinators. I am beginning to wonder about this. Has any one else noticed what I have noticed about their behaviour. Mine seem to leave their hole and head straight to a snowdrift flowering crabapple, then back to the nest hole. I watched for an hour one day and never saw a mason bee go anywhere else. So I went out in the orchard and watched the nesting blocks there and noticed the same thing. The bees went straight to a pear tree and back. I didn't see any tree to tree travel at all by the mason bees. I did see some bumble bees going tree to tree. I seem to have good pollination and fruit set going on but I am wondering if its the mason bees or the other insects.

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Zone 6 or 7 - Greg in Rochester, WA.


Wed May 21, 2008 11:48 am
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Joined: Fri Feb 09, 2007 1:21 pm
Posts: 426
Location: SW Washington
Post 
I've noticed that my mason bees prefer azalea to blueberry, apple and plum. The small bumble bees seem to be better generalists. In their defense, the mason bees are less conspicuous so I might just be noticing less of their activity.

The few honey bees I see seem to like the blackberries.


Wed May 21, 2008 5:39 pm
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Joined: Sun May 15, 2005 10:57 am
Posts: 1406
Location: Portland, OR
Post mason bee generations
I noticed the mason bees in my yard came out very late, and so were ineffective on my plums. I noticed they came out in Late April when it finally became warm. I have heard that they have generations in the same Spring. I don't know if that's true, but if it is, the grandpa could pollinate plum, the son early apple, and the children grape or thornless blackberry. The bumblebees sure seem to love blueberries and camass. The apples look very well pollinated, which will be nice after last year.
John S
PDX OR


Wed May 21, 2008 7:59 pm
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Joined: Tue Dec 28, 2004 9:09 am
Posts: 139
Location: Canby, OR Z8
Post 
I have a sizeable Mason Bee operation which every year fills up every tube I can provide them with. This year being the sole exception. They seem to have all but vanished during early to mid May. There's plenty for next year but they didn't even fill up the tubes that the HOS gives me that I give back filled with Mason bees.
I'm guessing that the cold, dark, depressing, miserable, disgusting spring weather had some effect on the local flowering trees and shrubs. So much so that the bees went somewhere else in search of blossoms. Either that or the Tree Swallows gobbled them all up, which has never happened before. But again, maybe the weather has made flying insects scarce and the swallows focused on my Mason Bees.
In any case there were plenty to pollinate my apples which have set an amazingly heavy crop, despite the weather. I can only hope that the sun will come out long enough to ripen them. Of course, if the sun ever does come out I suppose it will be unbearably hot, dry and windy.


Thu May 22, 2008 8:37 am
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Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2006 1:49 pm
Posts: 221
Location: Rochester, WA
Post Bring this up with another observation
How critical is nesting block placement for pollination? I am thinking it is very important. As I mentioned earlier, I noticed the bees going straight to one tree and back to the nesting blocks. I noticed this as well from my other set of nesting blocks. Now that I can see the apple set I have. I notice that the apple set gets progressively worse the further each tree is away from that direct path I saw the bees taking. It appears that it would be best to have multiple locations for the bees around the orchard. Has anyone else noticed this?

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Zone 6 or 7 - Greg in Rochester, WA.


Wed Jun 04, 2008 11:12 am
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Joined: Sun May 15, 2005 10:57 am
Posts: 1406
Location: Portland, OR
Post Yes
After your post I noticed that several made a direct bee line (get it?) for some of my plants. In my yard, early pollinating plants like plums were pollinated poorly. Cherries, later, so so. Apples, very well. I like how people mentioned that some plants, like blueberries, are mostly pollinated by bumble bees. They are sure all over the ceanothus. I hope they stick around for the kiwis, which are said to have pollination problems. I had so few blooms on my arctic kiwi that all 5 seemed to have been pollinated. I'm hoping that the hardy kiwi and fuzzy kiwi get pollinated like the apple, but I'm going to watch to see which type of bee it is.

Some of my pollination blocks get completely filled up, and some hardly at all, and only by non-mason bees. I used the same size drill bit for each (5/16ths.) The only difference is that with the PVC tube ones I got at Home Orchard, I put bird net over the covering so birds couldn't eat them when I saw them attacking. That may be the difference. On the wood blocks, I didn't use anything to fend off birds eating the bees, and I have a ton of little birds in my yard. Organic. ANyone else protect their bee blocks from birds with nets or other?
John S
PDX OR


Wed Jun 04, 2008 9:34 pm
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Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2006 1:49 pm
Posts: 221
Location: Rochester, WA
Post 
Its interesting. My plums are all loaded, my pears are too. My apples are very poor. Many trees only have 1 or 2 apples. They are 8 years old and have pollinators that bloomed at the same time.

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Zone 6 or 7 - Greg in Rochester, WA.


Wed Jun 04, 2008 10:15 pm
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Joined: Tue Dec 28, 2004 9:09 am
Posts: 139
Location: Canby, OR Z8
Post 
Plum, peach, pluot and cherry set for me this year is turning out pitiful. Although I don't know if it's pollination or the disgusting weather. Apples, however, set like gangbusters. Pear set appears normal.


Thu Jun 05, 2008 8:34 am
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Joined: Wed Mar 23, 2005 5:24 pm
Posts: 126
Location: Puyallup, WA
Post 
I put my bee blocks inside a chicken wire enclosure after I noticed the bees being picked off by birds as they returned to the blocks. I don't have a very large colony yet. I have 5/16" holes drilled in several wood blocks and a couple soup cans stuffed with drinking straws from McDonalds (about 5/16" diameter). They seem to prefer the straws in the soup cans over the wood blocks.

This year I planted more flowers in my orchard so I'd have something in bloom all the time for bee forage. I planted heather, lavender, and lithodora. I always see bumble bees in the blooming lithodora. I have salmonberries, huckleberries, and vine maples around the orchard too for the bees to forage in.


Thu Jun 05, 2008 9:13 pm
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Joined: Sun May 15, 2005 10:57 am
Posts: 1406
Location: Portland, OR
Post Different bad weather at different places
Greg,
I am going to assume that your weather up in Rochester was different than ours in Portland. We were really cold 36 degrees in February and drizzly, while in April we actually had a lot of clearing and some hot days. I think the apples partially did well here because the mason bees were too cold and didn't wake up in February so they all were really hungry when they woke up in April. I am not a scientist, just a gardener, but that' s my best guess. February is when my Japanese plums bloom. Do you have Euro or Japanese and when do they bloom?
John S
PDX OR


Thu Jun 05, 2008 9:59 pm
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