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 Mason Bees 
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Joined: Sun Jan 22, 2006 5:23 pm
Posts: 2
Post Mason Bees
I have about twenty trees in close proxity to each other.

How many bees do I need?

Do I really need the tubes or can I drill holes like shown on this web site: http://www.wingsinflight.com/gardbees.html?


Sun Jan 22, 2006 5:26 pm
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Joined: Wed Mar 23, 2005 5:24 pm
Posts: 126
Location: Puyallup, WA
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Mason bees seem to need a certain diameter hole, about 5/16". They do not seem to be too particular as to what that hole is in. I have seen them fill holes in my cedar siding and some bolt holes in my garage door. I took a soup can and stuffed it full of drinking straws from McDonalds (their straws are larger in diameter than most places use) and they seemed OK with that. I have also drilled holes in 4x 4's and 2x4's. Some people set up a table saw with dado blade to cut slots like those shown in the picture you referenced.

Mason bees are more effective at pollinating fruit trees because they will work in colder temperatures than honey bees will. If you have too many bees you might have too much success and have to do more hand thinning of the fruit!

Last year I think my bees suffered a lot of predator damage. I had the blocks set near a wire fence where sparrows could sit and pick the bees off as they returned to the blocks. This year I will put the blocks inside an enclosure with 1" chicken wire that the bees can fly through quickly and then land on the blocks where it is safe from predation.

I put a mound of dirt in a shallow pan of water near the bee blocks so they don't have to fly too far to get mud to plaster the cells shut. I use a water heater pan. A friend of mine leaves plastic buckets of water around his yard for his bees but the bees drown when they land in the water and can't crawl up the slippery sides of the bucket.


Tue Jan 24, 2006 12:26 pm
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Joined: Sun Jan 22, 2006 5:23 pm
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I found a ballpark answer in the How to Manage the Blue Orchard Bee book.

"Despite this variability, approximately 250 nesting females are sufficient to fully pollinate an acre of apples, and 300 to pollinate an acre of almonds. To account for potential dispersal and mortality of pre-nesting females, the actual number of females that should be released is higher."


Tue Jan 31, 2006 5:23 pm
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Joined: Tue Dec 28, 2004 9:09 am
Posts: 138
Location: Canby, OR Z8
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How many mason bees do you need? Hmmmm. Maybe none at all. Then again, maybe there's plenty of them around already. Do you have any pollination problems? Of course you won't know what good raising mason bees will do until you do it.
If your 20 trees are truly close together then I would assume the area covered is less than 2500 square feet. Seems to me a dozen working females would be more than adequate. If you're buying tubes then assume you'll get 2-3 females per tube. One nesting block with like 50 holes would be adequate. You might consider just putting out the nesting materials (tubes, blocks, bamboo, whatever) and see if any local mason bees move in. Although stocking with new bees would ensure a population.
Something to consider... you'll want your mason bees active over a long time to cover the various blooms you have. If you have too many bees, they will too quickly fill up the available nesting sites and move elsewhere. And since their poplulation will increase every year, you'll have more and more bees every year. My solution to this is to get rid of literally hundreds of filled tubes every year by donating to the HOS, giving some away, while some unfortunates end up in the fireplace. Ouch. The point is that we are able to give them such ideal living conditions that their population will get higher than you will be able to accommodate with nesting sites. So they may leave too quickly unless you thin their population each year.


Fri Feb 03, 2006 10:24 am
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Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2006 1:49 pm
Posts: 220
Location: Rochester, WA
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So where do you place your tubes? I have read they should be protected from the rain facing east or northeast about 4 feet off the ground. I need to build some kind of protected house for mine. Then you need to supply them with some mud? Thanks for any info.


Fri Feb 03, 2006 12:57 pm
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Joined: Tue Dec 28, 2004 9:09 am
Posts: 138
Location: Canby, OR Z8
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Here's a picture of a couple of my mason bee tube houses, at the bottom of this page:
http://www.homeorchardsociety.org/article/23/
Each hole you see has a cardboard tube inserted.
Made of cedar with a copper roof. Defininately overkill but I do it for the fun, although shelters like this are extremely useful, practical, durable, and look cool too.
You can cram a bunch of tubes into a milk carton with one side cut out, or any such sort of container.
But, yes, I would keep them out the rain. Water is bad news for these guys.
They should face *south* or *southeast* to pick up the any morning sunshine.
I wouldn't bother providing them with any mud, they seem to find it themselves even in dry weather. But if you want, you can just dig a 12-inch deep hole, fill it with water and let it drain. If it gets dry, just refill it at *night* some time so it has time to drain before the bees come out in the morning.
Attaching the bee shelter to the side of a house is often a good place. High enough that it gets protection from rain under the eves, but low enough to get morning sunshine and is convenient to work with or look at. If you simply have *no* shelter place to put it, then a simple shelter can be build. Or build something with a substantial overhanging, sloping "roof". A wooden box can be build with an open front and a sloping roof in the form of a chunk of 1x8 cedar. Just make sure that the roof overhangs the front enough to protect from wind-blown rain. The shelters in the picture in the link above were designed to be hung on a fence with no overhead protection. The worked great. There's a little metal attachment you can see at the top/back where they can be hung on a nail.


Sat Feb 04, 2006 8:59 am
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Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2006 1:49 pm
Posts: 220
Location: Rochester, WA
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Great pics! Thanks for sharing. Just one other question. How do you seal the back end of each tube? Do you just push it against the wood in the back? Or do you just fill the tube with a plastic plug? Thanks again.

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Zone 6 or 7 - Greg in Rochester, WA.


Sat Feb 04, 2006 2:26 pm
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Joined: Tue Dec 28, 2004 9:09 am
Posts: 138
Location: Canby, OR Z8
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There are several choices for filling the back of cardboard tubes.
The ones ffrom KnoxCellars.com come with a plastic plug. You can order plugs from them if you like and if they'll fit.
I also have a bag of corks that I ordered from a cork manufacturer. I forget the correct size designation that fits.
Or you can leave them open. Probably better if you push them back against the rear wall of whatever container you're using. The bees will seal it off anyway.
I've read that Mason Bees would not nest in open-ended tubes. Not true. Perhaps they prefer closed-end tubes, but they certainly use the open-ended ones without problems. Like I said, they'll gladly seal the back end themselves. And if it's longer than they care for, they just shorten it with a mud wall.


Sun Feb 05, 2006 9:24 am
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Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2006 1:49 pm
Posts: 220
Location: Rochester, WA
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I have 12 inch tubes and have folded them in half. They are in a 7.5 inch can that I will mount outside with the opening facing east to southeast. Should I push the straws all the way in so that they are about 1.5 inches from the end? Will the bees accept this? Also, should I mount the can with a small tilt so any water that might blow in will drain out? Will this affect the bees? Thanks for the help and information. I am a slow learner.

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Zone 6 or 7 - Greg in Rochester, WA.


Wed Feb 08, 2006 12:22 pm
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Joined: Tue Dec 28, 2004 9:09 am
Posts: 138
Location: Canby, OR Z8
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Yes, push the tubes all the way back. The bees will prefer it this way, they like a bit of shelter over the nesting sites.
Tilting the container to natually shed rainwater is also a good idea. Better yet, keep out of rain entirely. The tilt will not bother the bees, they will nest in a completely vertical tube if need be.


Thu Feb 09, 2006 9:33 am
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Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2006 1:49 pm
Posts: 220
Location: Rochester, WA
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Thanks for the information and help. I appreciate it. I am looking forward to an orchard full of fruit this year. Thanks again.

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Zone 6 or 7 - Greg in Rochester, WA.


Thu Feb 09, 2006 11:57 am
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