It's time to vote on our 2017 photo contest! Vote for your favorite photos of the year here!

Mason bees?

Kingston, Canada

Hey everyone.

Just wondering if anyone here has eperience with blue mason bees - I'm thinking about starting a hive of them to pollinate my indoor and outdoor plants, and know they're docile and harmless, but wondering if anyone has hands-on experience with them.

Alexandria, VA(Zone 7b)

I have had Mason Bees outside (in their wooden nests) for about 4 years. They are lovely and fascinating. Contact Dr. Margriet Dogterom at [email protected], or go to her website She has a video on Mason Bees (perfect for beginners), books, and all the supplies (including the bees)!

Wake Forest, NC(Zone 7b)

Also, do a Google search for mason bees. There are several reputable articles about building the wooden nests. I built 2; one for me and one for my neighbor. They are excellent pollinators due to little hairs all over their bodies and will only sting (the article says) if severely provoked.


Wake Forest, NC(Zone 7b)

Here's my hive with now 4 holes filled with little baby mason bees. Picture taken July 30 2009.

Thumbnail by pbyrley
Arlington, TX

Can mason bees live in TX? I would like to keep bees but don't know how to start. I have several kind including honey bees around in my yard but don't know much about the different types and which are suited to my new, very hot and dry TX climate. Do you have a pic of these bees?

Wake Forest, NC(Zone 7b)

I recommend that you contact your local ag extension service and ask if mason bees are local. The ag extension people like mason bees to improve pollination so they should be of more help than even someone 100 miles from you. If you just can't wait, Google "Mason bees in Texas" and see what it says.

BTW, I have only one or two more holes filed since the above picture. I clearly am no expert. It was just something an old coot could do to justify his expensive tools. Maybe my 4 or 6 filled holes will multiply into a bunch in a couple of years.

Alexandria, VA(Zone 7b)

Try painting 'X's and "O"x and long lines in different colored paint on the front of your Mason Bee house. It will serve as a visual cue to the female as to which hole she is working in. Here in Virginia, my Mason bees finish laying eggs on May 19th (they emerged on March 19th and live for only two months). I also have beneficial wasps, leaf cutter bees and some other native bee use the holes later in the summer.

Plus, when the Mason bees are laying eggs, have a mud supply readily available for them. I make a sand/earth slurry in a big plastic bowl 8 feet away from the bee house (add water to it as needed). Be sure to use virgin soil, with no fertilizers or other additives. Be sure your bee house faces East so the sun will warm the bees up early in the day, hang the bee house under an overhang to protect it from the rain.

pbyrley, your bees may be having trouble getting out of the holes. My bee house comes apart like a tinker toy, I take the cocoons out in January and put them in the top of the bee house to emerge March 19th. You would not believe the gunk, resin and mud obstacles in the holes/passageways. I doubt mine would ever be able to struggle their way out unaided. All info, books and 'come-apart bee houses' in my first reply above.

Janice~ Gulf Coast, MS(Zone 9a)

Oh I am going to have to check into this... Learn something new every day. :-)

Melfa, VA(Zone 8a)

I have also become interested in Mason Bees and have been thinking about trying to get some started on the ESofVA where we are moving. The fruit trees I planted earlier this year aren't real full yet but are about 7-8 ft tall. I am not sure yet if they will provide the cover the bees will need. No dirt over there so I had expected to have to supply some...TY nb6033
for giving me a good idea about how to supply it...rather than just in a hole where the water would probably just seep out quickly. I had thought I just needed dirt but read where you are using a mix of mud and sand. What percentage of each?? Also, thanks for the tip about the paint!!!
For those of you with experience, did you purchase your first bees or just hang out your "hive"? Where did you hang it?
I am not sure if there are Mason Bees over there, I haven't checked around to see. I do know we have them here in Blacksburg. I have thought about hanging some around the horse pasture here to see if any will lay eggs and then move them to the shore after they are dormant.
No use asking the agent there. He is happy to look in a book to see what it says...they just say in VA, not which parts. Maybe I can search around a bit more and find it myself...didn't think of that. A VA map of ranges would be good. My hubby asked him about pasture grasses a while back and he gave him a list. I looked and told hubby one of the grasses on it shouldn't be used. Hubby took it to Southern States and they also told him it needed to be changed and they sold him the correct mix.
Anyway, not trying to put him down, just frustrated with his knowledge of that specific area.
Oh, I have been checking out prices for the bees and they run around $1.20 ea bee!!! GEEZ!
Glad I thought to lok here for info!!!

Rancho Santa Rita, TX(Zone 8a)


Stephen Bambara, Extension Entomologist
CAUTION: This information was developed for
North Carolina and may not apply to other areas.

The Orchard Mason Bee is the common name
of a nonsocial native bee (Osmia lignaria ssp.)
that pollinates our spring fruit trees, flowers
and vegetables. This gentle, blue-black
metallic bee does not live in hives. In nature
it nests within hollow stems, woodpecker
drillings and insect holes found in trees or wood.

Sometimes there may be dense collections
of individual nest holes, but these bees neither
connect or share nests, nor help provision or
protect each others' young. Also, they are
active for only a short period of the year. They
are not aggressive and one may observe them
at very close range without fear of being stung,
which makes them excellent for enhancing
our yards and gardens.

They add beauty, activity and pollination to our
plantings. However, they do not produce honey.
About Orchard Mason Bees

The female Orchard Mason Bee visits flowers
to collect pollen for its young. She forms a
small ball of pollen and nectar in the back of
the nesting tube and lays an egg on the ball.

She then collects mud to form a cell partition
and repeats the pollen ball-egg laying process
until she reaches the mouth of the tube where
she caps the end with mud.

Starting the life cycle in the spring, adult males
emerge from tubes first, but must wait for the
later appearance of the females in order to mate.
This event often coincides with the redbud (Cercis)
bloom. Females alone, begin founding new nests
in holes to make a row of 5-10 cells in each nest.

Females collect the pollen and nectar and lay eggs.
Their short foraging range is about 100 yards from
the nest. Activity continues 4-6 weeks and then
adults die. During the summer, larvae develop inside
the nests, make cocoons, and become new adults
resting in the cells.

With the onset of fall, the adults become dormant
as they go into hibernation. These bees require
some cold temperatures before spring in order to
break their dormancy.

Nest Block Construction

The native eastern species of Orchard Mason
Bee will nest in holes drilled in a wooden
block. Untreated 4" x 6" lumber works great.
Holes can be drilled in the wood on 3/4 inch
centers. They should be 4-8" deep (depending
upon the size lumber used), smooth, and
a 5/16" diameter hole is important. A smaller
hole encourages higher production of male
bees which reduces the reproductive potential
of the population. Blocks may be drilled from
either face giving shallower or deeper holes.

Shallower holes may produce more male bees.
Do not drill completely through the lumber.
Drill the hole to a depth about 1/2 inch from
the back of the block. Attach a roof to provide
protection from the midday sun and rain.

Outside surfaces may be painted or stained,
but do not use wood preservatives. One hole
may be drilled in the back to provide a means
of hanging the block. Face nesting blocks as
close to the southeast direction as possible
to catch morning sun and affix it firmly so that
it does not sway in the wind. It should be
located at least three feet above the ground.

These bees need mud to construct cell partitions,
so adding a mud supply may be helpful if needed.
This can be a trench or tub located nearby where
muddy soil is maintained during the nesting period.
The mud should not be highly organic or sandy.
Clay soils work well.

Do not move the blocks during the weeks of active
nesting. Once all nesting activity has stopped, the
nesting block may be moved to a shelter such as
a shed or unheated garage. Be gentle when moving
occupied blocks at this time of year. This will give
the bees added protection from predators and
parasites, yet will allow them exposure to the cold
temperatures that they need to break hibernation.

If desired, bee emergence can be delayed for
a short period by refrigerating the block in the
spring until you are ready for the bees to emerge.
Bees will need three days to warm up following

Orchard Bees are sometimes reared in cardboard
tubes, hollow reeds, or straws. Cardboard tubes
and straws need more protection from weather
and parasites. Paper straws allow better inspection
and manipulation. Plastic straws hold moisture and
allow mold to develop and are not recommended.

Bees may also be purchased commercially.

You can be creative with your nesting blocks. Blocks
can be made from any shape wood. They may be
cut to a fancy shape, be a small piece of dead tree
limb, fence post or scrap of firewood. You can vary
the diameter of the drilled holes to attract different
species of tube-nesting bees or nonsocial, beneficial

Published by North Carolina Cooperative Extension
Service Distributed in furtherance of the Acts of
Congress of May 8 and June 30, 1914.
2001 NC Cooperative Extension Service

ENT/Ort-109 2/12/1997; Revised November, 2002

Alexandria, VA(Zone 7b)

Excellent article above! Thanks, BB....I would recommend buying bees to kick-start your Mason Bee population. After that, you don't need to buy more. At $.50 per bee (washed and cleaned!), I use:

Richard L Lee
18400 NW 28th Avenue
Ridgefield, WA 98642
e-address: [email protected]
Mason Bee Supply @ 360- 624-0396

Wake Forest, NC(Zone 7b)

After I made my mason bee "hive" (shown above) , I made another just like it for my neighbor. She hung it within 100 feet of mine and got it almost full so I am expecting good things next year. I think the difference was she was diligent in keeping her pan of clay moist and I wasn't. They must have moist clay to block the hole when they finish.


Grapevine, TX(Zone 8a)

A few months ago, I bought a can of the tubes and liners from Knox Cellars and built a little cedar enclosure for them and set it out in my yard. I bought six starter bees from a local nursery and set them by the house. I have been seeing quite a bit of activity around the house, and a few tubes have been filled up. About a week ago I was out in the yard at night and happened to shine my flashlight at the bee house and, to my surprise, I could see about 20 bee bottoms sticking out of the tubes. Interesting way to sleep. I guess the starter bees I bought must have invited over some friends. Now I have over a dozen tubes filled, and counting.

Melfa, VA(Zone 8a)

I took my bee cocoons out of the fridge the other day so they would hatch out when I got over to our new house this coming week. The very next day the males started hatching out!!! There were small holes in the tops of the containers they came in and 4 had escaped into my bedroom. I found them and put them in another container. two more had chewed holes in their cocoons, too one had pulled a bunch of the cotton into its cocoon! I pulled it back out and put those two in the container. I didn't know what to do so I put them back in the fridge and contacted the company. They told me that is what I should have done. Guess when I drive over and set them out I sure won't have to worry that they won't hatch before I leave again to come back home.

Arlington, TX

Dennis where did you get the starter bees? I would love to find a local source.

Grapevine, TX(Zone 8a)

I bought them at North Haven Gardens in Dallas.

Arlington, TX

Do you buy the cocoons in winter and then bring them out of cold storage for summer? I was trying to think if I

I was trying to remember if I have ever seen these bees here but am not sure. When do you buy the cocoons?

Austin, TX(Zone 8b)

lol - Boy, we're just learning all kind of fascinating things, aren't we? 8>)

I guess bees sleep with their defensive parts out?

Grapevine, TX(Zone 8a)

I bought mine about 6 weeks ago or so. They were in my car for a few hours, and a few had already emerged by the time I got home. Luckily they had put them in a restaurant take home container, so I didn't have bees in my car. :)

Wake Forest, NC(Zone 7b)

These tales are quite a hoot - I never thought I would enjoy reading about mason bees so much when I first built my nesting block. I gotta figure out a way to keep my mud supply moist soon as things are starting to bloom here and I'm sure the local bee population will know it. I'm thinking I should move the block across the yard so I would be near my A/C unit. I already have a set of pvc pipes out which catch the condenser drip from the A/C and took it down to where I had planted a dogwood last year. The dogwood liked it so maybe the bees will too. The red clay is certainly available [everywhere!].

Melfa, VA(Zone 8a)

Well, I took my little, not so cheap bees ($60.00 for 50) over and turned them loose into their new little bee house the next morning! Of course, during the 7 hr drive, a few more had hatched. The remaining coccoons, I put in among the tubes (not in them), and the hatched bees, I just let out on their little "porch". Off they flew and by the next afternoon they had all vanished. Now just hoping they will find it in their tee tiny heatrs to come back sometime! LOL!
While I had been away (and before I brought the bees back with me), something had pulled the tubes out of the box and scattered them all over God's green acre (probably a crow). Looked like a small bird (possibly a wren) had also just started house keeping in there, too. I collected the tubes, cleaned out the house, and put them back into the box before letting the bees loose. I also took a piece of 1/2" hardware cloth and nailed across the front of the box so the tubes would stay where I put them. Guess we will see.

Grapevine, TX(Zone 8a)

My wife is now quite the mason bee convert. This was our first year with them, and we have a single can of 74 tubes. All but about 12 are filled, so next year she wants me to build something big enough to hold 3 cans! :)

Indianapolis, IN

Is it possible to remove mason bees from an unmortered rock wall?

Wake Forest, NC(Zone 7b)

Newbeegal - why remove them? Just add a nesting block where you want it nearby and they will populate it. At least you know the area where they want to live. I think I put my nesting block on the wrong side of the tracks.

Melfa, VA(Zone 8a)

As far as I can tell, only two of the tubes of the ones I put out have been sealed up. Since this is my first venture with mason bees, not sure if there are mason bees in there or not. How well do they manage heat?? It has been soooo hot the last 4 weeks...upper 90's - 100's and no rain. Everything is drying up. I have managed to put soaker hoses on most of my trees, fruits, and flowers,, and sprinklers on others. On timers as we haven't moved yet and I am not there to water.

Indianapolis, IN

pbyrley - okay, thanks for the info. I am just not familiar with mason bees. We are now the proud owners of one hive of honeybees, since early June, but the mason bees ...? The front wall were they are located is along the street and path to our front door. My husband wanted to rebuild it and is unable to while the bees are there.

Winslow, NE

I have enjoyed raising mason bees for nearly 20 years. What started out as a backyarb hobby has now shifted into a full time effort to help backyard gardeners succeed with raising mason bees and other solitary insects.

They honeybees of the world are not doing well. We need gardeners to be successful with raising native insects. In about 5-7 years, we may not have all crops pollinated by our faithful honeybee and will be looking for native insects to help out.

Please roam through our website: You'll find most of your questions answered there. If you have anything not answered, please email us directly. We're connected to various US Bee labs if we get stuck. :)


Thumbnail by crownbees
Melfa, VA(Zone 8a)

YES!!! My mason bees came back! They were hatching out before I could get the pupae in the box last year and was afraid they wouldn't come back. (see message above) I saw them one day and sat until I could get a pic.

Thumbnail by estrail1rider
Grapevine, TX(Zone 8a)

Mine are already done for the year. We had a very warm and early spring.

Melfa, VA(Zone 8a)

mine were out for much longer than I expected. They were still out two weeks ago when I left and I figure they will be gone when I go back tomorrow.
I had to put the hardware cloth over the front of my box to keep the crows and grackles from pulling the tubes out and scattering them everywhere.
Do you change the tubes out every spring? All or just the ones used??
I finally found a source of bamboo canes. A nursery not too far from our new house has a stand growing beside it and the owner said i could come and get what I needed anytime.

This message was edited May 21, 2011 8:37 AM

Post a Reply to this Thread

Please or sign up to post.