Orchard Mason Bees

Phoenix, AZ(Zone 9b)

A friend has me interested in these bees. I have a couple of nesting boxes for them and am reading a book about them, very interesting creatures. Does anyone know if they *only* pollinate fruits? That is what my reading is suggesting and I don't have any fruit trees, bushes or shrubs. I want them to pollinate my veggies. Am I buzzing around an idea that's not going to work? Thanks folks.

Thumbnail by MaryMcP
Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

I have a mason bee nest, although I think another kind of native bee actually uses it. I see these little bees eagerly gathering pollen from all kinds of vegetable plants during the summer.

So, it might depend on which kind of native bee uses your nest as to whether or not they pollinate your vegetables.

Phoenix, AZ(Zone 9b)

Apparently leafcutters will use these nest boxes too, and some others. Thanks Honeybee.....you only have *ONE* nest? Silly girl.

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

I left a huge broccoli head that had blossomed into a huge yellow flower on the stalk, because I noticed tiny little bees working on it.

This morning as I worked on the veggies and neared the blossom, I was bent over and heard what sounded like the live power wire. I glanced over and realized the blossom was FULL of bees, covering it, as well as burrowing inside.

Don't need a bee house!

My response to the bees has been, "Don't taze me, bro'!"


This message was edited Jan 21, 2012 6:05 PM

Cleveland,GA/Atlanta, GA(Zone 7b)

The nesting boxes for these bees are beautiful, Mary. DD has several hives and raises honey bees in the city as part of an urban bee initiative. There are bee restoration projects happening around the country because of the decimation of native bee populations. She visited recently and gifted us with delicious honey. If you would be interested in honey bees I'll put you in touch with her. I am wanting to set up hives myself. They will be happy to service your fruits and veggies and share their honey as a bonus.

Phoenix, AZ(Zone 9b)

Laurel, Thanks for the offer, I *really* wanted to get into bee keeping after I finished reading Farm City by Novella Carpenter but DH is opposed. He envisions swarms of angry bees as well as angry neighbors. Since I am currently very busy growing my bookkeeping business, adding bee keeping would be a stretch anyway. It's on the bucket list for later and I'll keep you in mind as a good contact person.

Been reading The Orchard Mason Bee by Brian L Griffin. This man sure knows his mason bees. It's a very interesting read. For example, the female mason bee is better at her fractions than I am......each 'tunnel' she lay her eggs in is about 6" deep. She first lays female eggs, then tops off the tunnel with male eggs, achieving a 1/3 to 2/3 ratio. This is done so the males will be first to emerge (females one to two weeks later) slaying predators and making the way safe for his girls. Since one male can impregnate multiple females, it's okay to lose some in the battle to defend the home fort. That's just one amazing fact, there's dozens. DH says I should study ants if I find bees fascinating.

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

MaryMcP - I think the ones that occupy my mason bee hive are leafcutter bees, but I really don't know one native bee from another!

I keep telling myself I need another native bee kit, but somehow never get around to ordering one.

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

I found a photo of my native bee kit that I didn't know I had...

Thumbnail by HoneybeeNC
Irving, TX(Zone 8a)

what do you do when the bees fill the bamboo stick?
I have lots of them full of stuff.
Can I remove the stuff inside the holes?
Are there bees sleeping during the winter .... huuummm ?

Richland, WA(Zone 7b)

Do you get any honey from them, and how?

Phoenix, AZ(Zone 9b)

No honey from these bees. Their sole purpose in life is to pollenate! They line their nests with necter and pollen and lay their eggs for the next spring emergence.

drthor, yes, they sleep through the winter and emerge in spring. There is a cleaning process one must do to the nest to avoid mites taking over.

Irving, TX(Zone 8a)

when do I clean the nests?

Phoenix, AZ(Zone 9b)

You know, it's a long and somewhat complex chapter that I just finished in my mason bee book and I did not fully digest all the details. I'm beginning to think I may just let these bees go find suitable holes in the firewood pile! ;-) You might want to find a book on mason bees. The one I have is $12 at Amazon


Irving, TX(Zone 8a)


Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

MaryMcP - you don't have to clean the inserts - just replace them with new ones.

Phoenix, AZ(Zone 9b)

Oh - there's a good idea! Thanks Marian. My nest looks just like the one you posted above.

Helena, MT

Mary, like Linda says, the wife has some petunias and a bleeding heart bushe which attract these bees by the thousands. I did some research about a year ago on building nests for these as depicted in your photos. I purchased a long drill, some crate paper for making the rolled tubes, and plan to mount a long section of six inch wide lumber under my deck. You can drill the holes clear through the board, however the back should be covered with something which can be removed in order to clear out the holes after the bees have hatched. Just roll some more crate paper and reinsert as I recall. Seems pretty simple.

We also have some hug orange backed bumbles bees which have grown in number each year. The really do a nice job in the garden. I understand you can build a nest for these as well using something like a three pound coffee can if you can still find them. I collected six before the coffee producers quit using them. I purchased some thin cardboard which can be rolled and used as a liner inside the can, then you add some insulation for bedding. Cut a hole in the plastic lid large enough for the bumblebees to enter and bury the can so only the lid is exposed.

I did make a file on this subject which contains more detailed information. Will learn more in the spring when I give it a try.

Phoenix, AZ(Zone 9b)

Morgan, I've seen the idea for making your own tubes as well - it's in The Book. I have some plain brown wrapping paper that I thought would work well. I think I was just a bit overhwhelmed by how complicated the book made the cleaning process sound.

DH was going to make me some blocks but he gets side tracked on other projects and I was anxious to get them started. And for $11 each thought it was a steal. My brother in Vermont ordered a nest WITH the bees. He has orchards of various fruit trees.

Thanks for the note.

Allen Park, MI(Zone 6a)

Anyone have a good source for buying Mason Bees

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

paulgrow - when I put up my native bee home, I didn't buy Mason Bees. The bee home quickly filled up with local native bees. You just need the tubes and something to put the tubes in.

Allen Park, MI(Zone 6a)

I have a M.B. house with the tubes in it

Phoenix, AZ(Zone 9b)

Last summer I found that mason bees REALLY like hollyhocks. (So do grasshoppers unfortunately) Try planting borage too, any high nector flowers/veggies. I often plant broccoli just to let it bolt, the bees love broccoli flowers. I did not buy bees either. My mb house is about 1/3 filled. My brother, in Vermont, bought bees but lost all of them in a late freeze last year.

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

paulgrow - If you see very small bees in your garden this summer, then you have native bees in your area. Or, you could check the internet for references to native bees in your area, or ask your agricultural agent.

I knew there were native bees here, because so many of them were evident in the garden.

How long have you had the M. B. house up?

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

Mary - our native bees love onion flowers. I've left some onions in the garden to winter over in the hopes they will flower and attract native bees this summer.

Hopefully, the voles won't find the onions first (sigh)

Anderson, IN(Zone 6a)

I do that with a radish, let it grow all year, most of the time it is first and last to flower, bumblebees always find it.. Their not the greatest pollinators in the garden, but some years around here ,I am happy to have any bees at all!!!
The problem with the big old bumblebees,(Genecea Bumbidae) anything they find made of wood the chew on these days also,

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

I get all sizes of bumblebees. Some of them do chew on the wood of our lean-to. In the summer, I often catch bumblebees asleep on the veggie leaves early in the morning.

So.App.Mtns., United States(Zone 5b)

The only bees I see chewing on or into wood are the carpenter bees.

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

Yes, darius, I think you are correct. My neighbor keeps arguing with me that they are bumble bees. (As a former bee keeper, you would think I knew this well enough to stand my ground, but sometimes it's better to say nothing) :)

Anderson, IN(Zone 6a)

All bees chew wood , honeycombs, nests, paper hornets nest made of chewed wood, old beehives built naturally(rare) trees chewed into hives. All of them....
We just usually do not think of bees as termites ...

Magnolia, TX(Zone 8b)

YouTube has some awesome videos on Mason Bees and the cleaning of nests. GREAT assists on what you can expect and what to look for. I can't find my link on bee species - it is hard to tell the differences in some of them- and there are pictures!

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

juhur7 - honeybees definitely do NOT chew wood! Honeycomb is made from wax produced by their own bodies. I know this because I used to keep honeybees.

They will clean surfaces, including wood, of debris, but this debris is thrown out of the hive.

They do not chew holes in trees, or anything else to make a nest. However, they will take over a hole that has been created by another creature. They never nest in the ground.

Anderson, IN(Zone 6a)

Okay bee!! I won't start an argument here , and your experience will stand ,, Only I have seen them in Cemetary hole hives also.(LOL). It is your species the common honeybee that does not chew wood , that is why the changes have them in trouble
I suppose I could refer to the common honeybee as the first GMO manipulation . Only that is another thread ,,isn't it?..(lol)

I suppose it would not hurt to make mention of three types (or kinds) of honey bees that had been everywhere that I have not seen anymore since the 1960's

This message was edited Jan 18, 2013 2:57 PM

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

juhur7 - here's my photo of a honeybee gathering pollen from a melon blossom. This is the most common European honeybee (Apis mellifera) kept by beekeepers. I have not read that any bees have been subjected to genetic modification.

This was taken June 2011.

Here's an article about honeybees:


Thumbnail by HoneybeeNC
Monte Vista, CO(Zone 4a)

Wow, Honeybee, that's a GORGEOUS photo! You should enlarge that and frame it.

Phoenix, AZ(Zone 9b)

That's one happy bee - drunk on the punch!!

Sierra Foothills, CA(Zone 8a)

Honeybee ~ Have you entered that photo in the DG contest? We think that you should. Excellent!! ^_^

Anderson, IN(Zone 6a)

I agree with everyone about the photo being nice!

Your link bee;; mentions genetic manipulation , I am saying this/ When I was younger I could hardly walk three blocks ,town city, or country ,without seeing a hive of honeybees. If you have a lot or many of them where you are ,that's good , Nowhere near as many here or most places I have been anymore...
You and I both know ""who dunnit""" ALL IN ALL ,, ""Changes are changes"" I guess?(sigh)

This message was edited Jan 19, 2013 4:53 PM

Sierra Foothills, CA(Zone 8a)

juhur ~ In any case, the European Honeybee is not native here, even though we do make good use of them. I applaud all that make the most of the native bees here. Do any of them make honey as well?? We all love honey... My mother used to raise honeybees and they are a lot of work, really. She was working full time as well and tended them on the weekends, (in SoCal).

Anderson, IN(Zone 6a)

The only other I have heard of that makes honey was a dwarf hornet , Lot of similar looking to honey bees . Only their aggressiveness made them unsuitable for cultivation..
That is why the Euro honey bee ,or so I would guess,
The dwarf hornet would be like raising alligators for eggs, only that is done some place also..

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

Unfortunately I rarely see honeybees here. I rely on bumblebees, native bees, and wind for pollination.

When we lived in south Florida, we owned five acres where I kept several bee hives (don't remember how many hives.) We didn't live on the acreage. We meant to do so, but never had the funds.

Thanks for the nice comments about the photo.

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