Learning to Do What's Natural...
 
April 2017 | crownbees.com
What's in this Issue:
1. Tips and Reminders - Spring Mason Bees
2. Tips and Reminders - Summer Leafcutter Bees
3. Mother's Day Gift Ideas and Special Kits
4. New Products - Bee Defender in the works, Invitabee LC
 
Tips and Reminders - Spring Mason Bees
 
It's still a busy time for mason bees! We know that much of the northern part of North America is experiencing a late spring with poor conditions for mason bees to fly. Please be patient and know that as soon as the weather is sunny and warm they will get back to work. 
 
Release mason bees now!
Mason bees survive during hibernation by living off their stored fat reserves.  About now their tanks are nearly empty. We recommend that you let your mason bees emerge from their cocoons as soon as you can. Mason bees need to emerge to feed, mate, and begin nesting activity. If you find that your bees haven't emerged, we strongly suggest that you rescue them by opening cocoons up with a pair of scissors. See how to do this on our video. Place the emerged bees on a dandelion or similar broad flower with plenty of nectar. They'll fuel up, fly away and thank you!
 
If you don't want to rescue bees, consider throwing them away. Cocoons can be filled with mono, a parasitic wasp that laid eggs in the larva last summer and the larva lived long enough to spin a cocoon. This wasp emerges around now through June to begin infected new mason bee larvae through the sidewall of tubes. (We have a new Bee Defender product that will trap and eliminate this pest. It will be available in about two weeks.)
 
Consider candling your mason bee cocoons. Just like with a chicken egg, you can candle a cocoon to see what is inside! This is an alternative to opening cocoons with scissors and it can help you know how many of your cocoons have adult bees inside. Get a bright flashlight and a small piece of cardboard. Cut a small hole in the middle of the cardboard and use it to shield the light. Hold one cocoon at a time over the focused hole of light. This video will show you three examples of what you might see. We weren't able to find a mono-filled cocoon for this video shoot, but if you see a mass of little bodies, throw it away as these are mono wasps.

What if you don't see any bees nesting? First, understand that you might not be able to see the early signs of bees nesting. If you are comfortable they all flew away, consider what happened from the bee's perspective. We believe the absence of clayey-mud is the number one reason for failure. Was the clayey-mud moist and in a hole nearby? If not that, is a neighbor spraying their lawn with chemical treatments? Lastly, and unfortunately, sometimes a beautiful yard might not work for this spring bee. Please understand that there may be other native hole-nesting bees nearby wanting to use different size holes.
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Last thoughts!
How to check for nesting bees: Shine a flashlight at night into the nesting holes, you are looking for heads or rears in the nesting holes. 
 
When to replenish nesting holes: A female mason bee will cap the end of her nesting hole with an extra thick layer of mud to protect her precious young. She will then move on to a new nesting hole and begin the hard work all over again. If you see about 40% of the nesting holes filled you may want to think about adding more nesting holes. Simply add new loose nesting material on top of the previous ones. 

Make big changes at night: Sometimes, to improve nesting success, you need to move the bee house to a warmer or sunnier location, or you need to make space for fresh nesting materials. The best time to make these big changes is at night. In the morning the nesting female bees will reorient themselves to their new location and the new look of their nesting holes. Be careful not to remove what appears to be an empty nesting hole as a female bee might be sleeping deep inside the hole. Try to keep the orientation of the mason bee house about the same.

Pollen loaves smell good: The sweet scent of pollen and nectar are attractive to birds, earwigs, and ants. Our page about pests, chemicals and drilled wood has tips for how to deter and deal with annoying pests.
 Tips and Reminders - Leafcutter Bees
Our leafcutter bees are available now!
When we incubate our leafcutter bees, pests show up midway through. Surprisingly, we have found few parasitic wasps. That's great news and shows that our bee producers were careful while raising these bees.
 
It takes us about three weeks to incubate leafcutter bees. Guessing how many bees to incubate is a fine art! We have previous orders and then speculate how many orders might be added in the next three weeks. We underestimated the early-season popularity of these gentle garden pollinators and ran out of bees this Monday. If you are considering trying out summer pollinators, please order now. Remember, you will tell us which Monday you want us to ship these bees to you between now through the end of August as you order the bees.

Releasing leafcutter cocoons: It's easy and only takes a minute. Leafcutter bees shipped to you arrive in a small mesh bag. Place the bag into the fridge for 10 minutes to calm emerged bees for easier handling. Put the bag on top of the 6mm nesting holes or in the attic of your bee house. Gently open the top a bit and the emerged bees will crawl out. Watch this quick video that shows you just how easy it is to set up and release leafcutter bees. 
 
Incubating your own leafcutter bees at home: Place your harvested leafcutter bee cocoons into a fine mesh bag like the BeeGuardian. The bag will help you control and protect against any of the parasitic wasps like the pteromalus. Your water heater's room might be a good location for incubating leafcutter bees, as it is warm and dark. After about 7-12 days check for any signs of the pteromalus wasp (small gnat-sized black bugs). Some leafcutter bees may be ready to fly around day 18 or more. At a consistently warm temperature of 84*F most leafcutter bees take about 20 days to develop from larvae to adult. An inconsistent temperature will cause the bees to take longer to develop. Here's a quick video Dave and Tim took on incubating the bees:
Moving from mason to leafcutter nest materials: If your mason bees are already done with their work, remove your filled nesting materials from your bee house. Place filled mason bee nesting holes with the mud-capped end facing up into our BeeGuardian bag. Place the bag of filled tubes into a warm garden shed or garage, the warm temperatures allow the mason bee larvae to feed and develop. Place the smaller 6mm leafcutter bee nesting materials into the bee house with holes facing out. Spray our new Invitabee for leafcutter bees onto the front of the nesting materials and wait a few minutes before placing out leafcutter cocoons. 

If you have multiple species active (both mason and leafcutter for example) try to have your nesting holes segregated, meaning large holes grouped together and small holes grouped together. 
 
Overcoming the "leafcutter" scary name: Dave has had leafcutter bees at his house (hundreds of them) for over four years. He has yet to find a hole in any of his rose bushes, hostas, etc. The bees do gather leaf circles from the yard, but they do little damage from all we've observed. If you haven't seen this video taken by Crown Bees' Danielle of her son, it's both funny and awesome to see how gentle these bees are.

Other larva-looking bees or wasps in your HumidiBee: Place these non-mason and non-leafcutter larvae into a BeeGuardian bag now, and protect them from direct sun. You might store these hanging up in a shed or outdoor temperature garage and check on it weekly. Watch the larva develop from pupa to bee or wasp over time. When the first bee or wasp emerges, place them out towards the back of your nesting holes similar to mason and leafcutter bee cocoon release. Congratulations! We want to know what you found. Take pictures and send them to us at info@crownbees.com.
Mother's Day Gift Ideas
 
Mother's Day is Sunday, May 14th and if your mother loves to grow flowers and food she will love the gift of gentle pollinating bees. We are celebrating Mother's Day with two specially created products! Hurry because these special kits won't be available after May 15, 2017
 
 
Mother's Day Chalet Summer Kit - Save $15!

Made especially for summer pollination, your mom can also use this bee house for raising mason bees next spring. Click here to order.

Includes:
  • Chalet: Peaked roof with cocoon release attic
  • Certificate for 100+ leafcutter bee cocoons
  • 104-hole reusable wooden trays for leafcutter bees
  • Invitabee Spray for attracting leafcutter bees
  • BeeGuardian bag for protecting nesting materials and for incubating next year's leafcutter cocoons
  • Native Bee Guide, a 16-page booklet all about raising hole-nesting bees
Mother's Day Cabin Set - Save $7.85!
This cozy Cabin bee house is an instant bee hotel for providing much-needed nesting sites for wild hole-nesting bees. Click here to order.

Includes:
  • Cabin: Our smallest, cutest bee house
  • Two Pollinator Packs, with a variety of nesting hole sizes
  • Native Bee Guide, a 16-page booklet all about raising hole-nesting bees
Tips for ordering gifts for our kits:
 
  • Rather than you determining when your mother wants the bees to arrive, we have a certificate inside where she redeems the bees and tells us when to send them.
  • Choosing bee cocoon deliveries: our bees have optimal weather temperatures. Mason bees won't fly in weather under 55*F and leafcutter bees like weather warmer than 70*F. Remember to think about the flowers in your mother's garden or orchard and when they are blooming. 
 
 
We are also going to have a giveaway contest on Facebook of our Mother's Day Cabin Set. Join in on the fun!
 


New Products - Invitabee for Leafcutter Bees
 
Invitabee Spray for Leafcutter Bees
 
 
Our leafcutter bee attractant is ready to go! If you have unused leafcutter-sized holes, we strongly suggest that you use this attractant. Leafcutter bees tend to disperse as they emerge. In our trials last year, we found significantly more bees nesting in the holes sprayed with our InvitaBee Spray for Leafcutters. Strongly consider purchasing this prior to releasing your leafcutter bees this summer.
 
Bee Defender for Leafcutter and Mason bees
We are currently developing a new product that is going to protect mason and leafcutter bees from parasitic wasps. Monodontomerus and pteromalus are small gnat-sized wasps that infect hole-nesting bee larvae within their nesting holes. These parasitic wasps can overwinter within their host cocoons and will emerge in the spring or summer. Our BeeGuardian bag helps protect against parasitic wasps and our new Bee Defender is another way to protect against these bee pests. Left alone, parasitic wasps can destroy your bee house's population of hole-nesting bees. We will have this new product ready for sale this month. We're REALLY excited about this product!
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CrownBees.com  |  (425) 949-7954  |  13410 NE 177th PL Woodinville, WA 98072