Are you interested in adopting some cute little fluffy pets, but don’t have the space or time necessary? Perhaps you would like a little family project with a great learning opportunity? Or maybe you just want to help mother nature out a bit?
“MASON BEES or BLUE OCHARD BEES Osmia lignaria”
We have two mason bee homes at our Community Garden. The houses were built a few years back by the David Thompson School construction students.
Let me tell you little bit about these fuzzy friends. News flash!! – They don’t have stingers, so they can’t sting! Yay! Bee populations have been decreasing due to disease, agricultural practices, pesticides and reduced habitat. One third of the food we eat is directly or indirectly the result of pollination. One mason bee can pollinate up to 1,800-2,000 flowers in a day – honey bees only pollinate approximately 200 flowers daily! Wow! They actually look more like of a house fly with a greenish black body and a dark blue sheen. The boys have a delightful white tuft of hair on the top of their heads.
Here’s a bit about their lifecycle:
- In early spring – the males emerge first and wait for the females to follow, mate and die. (poor fellows) After mating, the females forage for pollen and nectar = pollinating flowers)
- Eggs are laid in tubular cavities like hollow reeds, twigs or holes in wood. (or our quaint bee houses)
- The female builds 6 – 8 ‘cells’ in each tube. Each cell contains an egg, pollen and nectar, followed by mud. When her tube is full, she closes it off with mud for protection from the weather and predators.
- Early summer – While inside the tube, the eggs hatch intolarvae and spin a cocoon around themselves.
- End of summer – There is a fully formed bee inside each cocoon.
- Autumn and winter – Adults hibernate until spring
Now, I know you’re all wanting to know – what’s involved in caring for these sweeties? I will tell you that it is way less work than picking up doggie gifts in the back yard! The time commitment is about a month in the spring and a couple of hours in the fall. You do need a small fridge – you know – the fridge that holds some cold adult beverages over the summer.
Once those lovely dandelions start blooming, it’s time for our bees to wake up and we get busy. Our ‘girls’ need fresh water to drink and moist mud so they can lay their eggs. This is usually from after the May Long weekend until mid to late June. Then we protect our cocoons in netting and let them ‘bee’. In late September or early October, the trays are opened and cleaned. The cocoons are given a quick bath, gently air dried and put in a small box (like a Jello box). Then they are tucked away in the back corner of the mini fridge. Just add a small dish of water next to the boxes to keep things at a comfortable humidity and you’re done! They will hibernate away until spring. Easy Bee’zy!
If this sounds fun and you want to get involved, check out our info below:
Questions or comments? Check out our website or social media sites.
General Garden Phone: 403-800-8365
Physical & Mailing Address: 332 – 94th Avenue SE Calgary, AB T2J0E8
We also have a closed group on Facebook that we use as a forum and which you are welcome to join. Search ‘Friends of Acadia Community Garden & Art Society’ and request to join.