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. Looking Forward to Earth Day
4. New Products - Just in Time!
 
Tips and Reminders - Spring Mason Bees
 
It's a busy month for mason bees! A mason bee survives during hibernation by living off its stored fat reserves and we recommend that you let your mason bees emerge from their cocoons by May 1st.
 
Your bee house should already be installed on a non-moving south-southeast facing wall, post, or fence, tall enough for you to peek into easily. In March we described how to set out nesting materials and we're sharing some of the tips again for your success. Three things are vital: the correct nesting holes, available pollen, and good clayey mud.
 
IT'S TIME FOR MASON BEE ACTIVITY!
 
What to look for! Males emerge first, followed by females. Males have long antenna and a white patch of hair on their face. We think the long antennas look cute! Males have one purpose - to mate with as many females as possible in their short 2-week lifespan. They drink nectar and will hang around the mason bee house.
 
Females are typically bigger than males, have shorter antenna, no white hair, and large jaws for carrying clayey mud. After mating, a female mason bee stores sperm, using it to fertilize eggs. Eggs that are not fertilized grow into male bees, fertilized eggs grow into female bees.
 
It may take a few days for the females to mate, scout the area for suitable nesting holes, pollen, and mud. They then choose their home and leave a scent in the tunnel that says "MINE!" to other mason bees.
 
You'll see many of the bees nesting in their holes in the evening or early morning. These are timid bees, don't be afraid to get close!
 
What to do if your mason bees haven't emerged from their cocoons: In general, spring mason bees will emerge when it's the right time of year (now) and daytime temperatures are about low to mid 50°F (10°C). One word: patience. Let them emerge when they are ready. However, if you are impatient or want to check if they're alive, see this video on how to open a cocoon with scissors.
 
If the bee is dead, open a few more cocoons. If all bees are dead, did they dehydrate in your refrigerator? Did they bake in the house from unusually hot weather or direct sunlight? We still have bees in our coolers for the month of April to restock if your weather or an unknown reason caused frustration.
 
What to do if your bees aren't nesting in the holes you provide: Again, patience. While not all bees might be nesting in your house, a few may be. You can check for guests by using a flashlight at night looking for heads or bums in the nesting holes. If no bees have nested, they could be nesting in your yard or your neighbors, or they could have flown elsewhere, typically for lack of clayey mud. We understand they also don't like lawn treatment odors from neighbor's lawns.
 
Watch mason bees fill the 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. Keep an eye on your mason bee nesting activity, if you see about 40% of the nesting holes filled you may want to think about adding more holes. Simply add new holes on top of the previous ones. If you need to make space, take filled nesting holes out at night. We'll teach more on this next month.

A word about the weather: Here in the Pacific Northwest, spring is arriving several weeks later than last year. We have heard that the rest of the country is having a late spring, too. Mason bees can fly in light rain but the cold and dark weather of a heavy spring rain may keep them in their cocoons or in their nesting holes.
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Reminders from our last issue:
 
Holding spring bees through April in the fridge: Add water to your HumidiBee and set the refrigerator temperature around 34°F. Place the Humidibee into a paper bag which provides a darkness that helps the bees stay asleep. Continue to watch for moldy cocoons and quickly wash the cocoons using instructions at the bottom of this page .  

If bees are emerging in the fridge:  These emerged bees have run out of stored fats (fuel) and must have food or perish. You can feed emerged bees with a cotton ball soaked in a 50/50 mix of water and white table sugar. While not a perfect food, it should keep them alive until your spring weather and flowers are ready.

Releasing bees: Mason bees emerge from their cocoons when the daytime weather begins to warm above 53°F, nighttime temperatures do not bother them. Watch the weather and be wary of a late snow. If you have enough cocoons, stagger your bee release by placing a few out now and a few more in a week or two. (Don't separate large cocoons from small as you want both large female and small males to be out at the same time.) Place cocoons on top of or behind the nesting holes (inside the mason bee house) so that the bees can get to know their home as they emerge. Protect cocoons from the wind by placing them inside a small paper cup or box. As the weather warms, beware of placing your bee cocoons in direct sunlight (place them in the back of the bee house), as this can bake your bees.

Protecting from hungry birds: If birds become a problem you can install wire cloth at the front of your bee house
. Choose a wire cloth that has openings that are 1/2 - 3/4" wide, this size should be big enough for mason bees but small enough to keep birds out. Do not attach the wire flush against the nesting holes because the bees need space for landing and leaving. Instead, bubble the bird wire 2-3" away from the front of the bee house.
Mason bee attractants: If you have our older model blue attractant sheets, place one sheet between the nesting holes as you put your bees out, and the other a few weeks later. For our newer Invitabee spray attractant, apply about 10 squirts over the front of the holes before placing out the bees. The spray evaporates within minutes, leaving the nesting scent pheromone behind. (There are about twenty sprays in the container.) This attractant was patented by the USDA to be an attractant for more than the blue orchard mason bee. We're pleased to license it!

Keep mason bee mud moist: Mason bees use mud to protect each egg chamber and they will not nest in your bee house if there is no usable mud nearby. Wet soil is not clay and wet garden dirt has too much humus in it and can't be gathered, carried, and packed. Mason bee mud should have a clay-like texture and bees need it to be moist so that they can gather and work with it. If your yard’s soil is silty or sandy, you can supplement with our mud mix.  We believe moist clayey-mud in the ground is most natural, but if your soil is too porous and you have to keep watering it, we developed the Mud Box which keeps mud moist for a long time and protects bees from frogs and birds as they gather mud.
 Tips and Reminders - Leafcutter Bees
Harvest last year's leafcutter cocoons now: If you raised leafcutter bees in your garden last year, now is the time to harvest their cocoons. Leafcutter bees hibernate as larvae and their leafy cocoons are more delicate than mason bee cocoons. We sometimes see small mason bee cocoons that were laid at the very back of leafcutter bee nesting material earlier in the season and then blocked by leafcutter bee cocoons. Opening your leafcutter materials now will give any mason bee cocoons you find a chance to emerge without harming the leafcutter bees that were laid in front of them. Set any non-leafcutter bee cocoons aside for release. Harvesting leafcutter cocoons now is also a good idea since incubating your own leafcutter cocoons can take time.  Here's a quick video we produced to show you how easy it is! (This is also found on our video page on our website.)
Leafcutter bee incubation: When you purchase our leafcutter bee cocoons, we incubate the bees for you. Our incubation process takes about 2.5 weeks for leafcutter bees to finish developing from larva to bee. Your purchased cocoons arrive in time for bees to begin emerging and your order is a satisfying way to pollinate your summer gardens.
 
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 gnat-sized 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. See this page for pointers on incubating your own leafcutter bee cocoons. Here's a quick video Dave and Tim took on incubating the bees:
Leafcutter bee emergence: Leafcutter bees are typically active in the summer and begin to emerge when weather consistently warms above 70°F. For most of North America, the time for leafcutter bee activity won’t arrive until May or June. If you want the bees for pollination, think through when the blossoms will be flowering, not when you're planting!

FINALLY!!!!
We finally have our leafcutter bee attractant developed and ready to sell! If you have new 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 that had our InvitaBee Spray for Leafcutters. Strongly consider purchasing this prior to releasing your leafcutter bees this summer.
 
If you have other larva-looking bees/wasps in your humidiBee: Whatever bee or beneficial wasp that used your holes and you're unsure of what to do; place these larvae into a BeeGuardian bag now, and protect them from direct sun. You might store these hanging up in a shed or ambient temperature garage and check on it weekly. Watch the larva develop from pupa to bee/wasp over time. When they start changing colors, you may want to place them out behind your nesting holes similar to mason/leafcutter bee releasing. Congratulations! We want to know what you found. Take pictures and send them to us at info@crownbees.com.
Looking Forward to Earth Day
What is Earth Day? It's a reminder that we should care about our planet and the life that it provides. What changes in practices can we personally do to ensure our world is as healthy as possible for us and our generations to come? Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin created the day in 1970 and the Environmental Protection Agency resulted from the annual movement to celebrate the earth. I hope it continues to survive.
 
To the Crown Bees team, bees are a "canary in the coal mine". If your neighborhood can't support bees, there's something out of whack. Freedom from chemicals, plenty of pollen, lots of habitat for the bees to dwell in; are all things to consider and discuss with your neighbor.

This year, we are going to share ideas to celebrate Earth Day to help bees thrive. Watch for a special edition of BeeMail for Earth Day soon, in the meantime here are three important points to know now to plan for a healthy spring.
 
1. The importance of native plants. Plants native to your area provide more pollen and nectar than non-native or cultivated plants. Many native bees are dependent on native plants for forage and for nesting habitat. The native plants you care for may be an oasis to a very unique bee.
 
2. Find a source of native plants. Native plants can sometimes be hard to find and one of the best sources is provided by a plant sale hosted by your local Native Plant Society. Native plant sales are often hosted by garden clubs, churches or schools and are seasonal events that usually occur in spring. Another option is to call your favorite nursery or garden center and ask them about increasing their selection of flowering native plants.
 
3. Learn about alternatives to pesticides. The Northwest Center for Alternative Pesticides is a great place to start learning about reducing and avoiding pesticides. Man-made lawn chemicals, like herbicides and chemical fertilizers, are also known to either directly harm or deter native solitary bees. The damage continues downstream to aquatic animals as well. Help make your yards (and possibly your neighbor's yards) healthy places for bees!
 
 


New Products - Available for one day only!
 
 
Finally, a slide for your bees! Sometimes your mason bee cocoons get bored and they're just itching to move. Give your young mason bees the physical exercise they need. You'll exclaim "someone's going to hibernate well tonight"! Not recommended for mason bee larvae.
 
Your mason bees are busy baking pollen loaves for their young and they would love these professional kitchen tools. The two-page cookbook has all the tips a bee needs for making tasty treats. 
 
Mason bees get their name from their habit of using mud to build protective walls for each nesting chamber. What would a mason be without a good trowel? The 10-mL capacity watering can keeps the mud moist while garden gloves and boots protect your bee's tiny feet and hands (they do have six of them after all).
 
(It took Demarus a long time to teach the mason bee cocoons how to climb up the steps...) Happy April 1st!

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