Learning to Do What's Natural...
 
March 2017 | crownbees.com
What's in this Issue:
1. Tips and Reminders - Spring Mason Bees
2. Tips and Reminders - Summer Leafcutter Bees
3. New Products - Ecologically-Sound Bee Hotels
4. Nesting Habitat and Conservation Efforts
5. Native Bee Network Update
 
Tips and Reminders - Spring Mason Bees
 
There is so much to cover this month! If you're an expert, pay attention to the release bees section.
 
If you're a new-bee, raising native hole-nesting bees is easy! This month is one of the most important ones as the spring bees are just now ready to come out.
 
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. Now it’s time to set out nesting materials. For the spring mason bee, three things are vital: the correct nesting holes, available pollen, and good clayey mud.

Placing nesting holes: Female mason bees find their nesting hole first with sight and then by smell. Below are tips for setting out nesting materials in a way that will help your bees 
easily find their nesting hole.

Wood nesting tray with 8mm holes: Place in the bee house with the back flush against the back wall and with nesting holes facing the front. The nesting holes of the nesting tray have been lightly burnished to provide the visual variety that bees prefer. (Why have wood trays? They are easy to open during fall harvest and you don't need to replace anything each year.)
 
Natural lake reeds and nesting tubes (8mm size): With nesting holes facing the front of the bee house, set the tubes or reeds in a haphazard or messy manner. Placing nesting holes in an uneven 3D pattern (sticking in or out a bit) can help the bees see which nesting hole is theirs. If you find a lot of excess space above your holes, fill that area with large sticks, large rocks, or wadded up paper. Birds may want to nest there which would be a disaster! (Why use reeds/paper tubes? They are easy for bees to use, paper is least expensive, but both types are replaced each year as you harvest cocoons in the fall.)
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!
 
Releasing bees: Mason bees emerge from their cocoons when the weather begins to warm above 53°F. 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 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.
Holding spring bees through April in the fridge:  If your spring weather will not arrive for a few more weeks, add water to your HumidiBee and keep the refrigerator temperature very cool, about 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. The solution to solve mold issues is found at the bottom of this page. Mason bees hibernate and survive on their stored fats. About now, their fat reservers are approaching empty, but not completely empty yet unless they've been subjected to warm temperatures through storage. By May, the bees will have to emerge or they will weaken and die. Mason bees should be outside by May 1st. 
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.
Mason bee mud: 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 would 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.
 
Why do we recommend to keep bees in the fridge?
When spring is late to your area, you are able to keep your bees in hibernation mode longer with the cool temperature of the fridge. The bee’s metabolism is lower at a colder temperature and they use their valuable fat reserves slower. A fridge temperature of 34°F is best at this time of year.
 
With an earlier than normal spring warm weather may arrive early but the flower (pollen) isn't available. Bees that emerge with no food die. Keeping the bees in the fridge helps you hold their release until vital flowers are open. A bee within a refrigerator has no idea that it's warm outside! You're in charge.
Tips and Reminders - Leafcutter 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!
 
Leafcutter bee incubation: When you purchase leafcutter bee cocoons, we incubate the cocoons for you which takes about 2.5 weeks for leafcutter bees to finish developing during our incubation process. Your purchased cocoons arrive in time for bees to begin emerging. See this page for pointers on incubating your own leafcutter bee cocoons at home. We'll talk more about this in April.
 
Early special orders: If you live in a location with an early warm spring, like Florida or Texas, and you wish to order leafcutter bee cocoons early, please email us: info@crownbees.com. Your special order of leafcutter cocoons could be ready by the first or second week of April.
 
If you already have an order with us, send us an email with your name and what Monday you want to switch to, we'll then adjust your order.

New Products - Ecologically-sound Bee Hotels
Bee hotels are fast becoming a backyard staple. Like birdhouses, bee hotels support the health of wild bee populations by providing much-needed nesting habitat. We are experts when it comes to raising mason and leafcutter bees and we are expanding our knowledge to how to raise other hole-nesting bees. There are over 1,000 species of hole nesting bees in North America!

DIY bee hotel instructions have good intentions but most lack the forethought that comes from knowing what's really needed to raise healthy, robust native hole-nesting bees. A bee hotel's nesting materials should be made of natural, local materials that are easy to remove and replace.

Just like with any creature, native bees have diseases, pests, and parasites that can harm them. Nesting holes should be easy to open to safely harvest cocoons in order to remove infected nesting chambers or diseased cocoons to maintain the health of bees. Drilled blocks of wood, bamboo, and other glued in elements might seem fine, but are not healthy for managing the bees due to unseen pest buildup.

We know that wild bees come in a variety of sizes and need a nesting hole that is just the right size for them. Some wild hole-nesting bees prefer to chew their way through pithy stems or solid wood. Our new bee hotel includes natural lake reeds and cardboard tubes in a variety of diameters (in the proper size range of course!), solid wood boards for carpenter bees, and pithy stems for the smaller Ceratina bees. It’s designed to be easy to clean and change out nesting materials and the house protects all the nesting materials from wind and rain. Our bee houses and nesting materials are designed with the health of the bees in mind.

For those of you who feel carpenter bees are pesky, our boards can be considered "sacrificial" wood. Once the bees have nested in them, you can relocate the board to some local woods and help the bees find a new home. We hope to find farms for them in the near future that would like powerful pollinating bees to buzz-pollinate their crops.

We are working on expanding the bee hotel line to include hotel (large), motel (small), DIY nesting materials, and other houses that are in a variety of sizes to fit your needs, style, and budget. Check back later this week.



Nesting Habitat and Conservation Efforts

Connecting the Native Bee Network will have two paths; one for backyards and the other for land conservation organizations.

Today, government agencies and other organizations want to know the health and numbers of our bee pollinators. Traditionally, the only way to assess bee populations is to trap bees in the wild for identification and population counts, which typically extrapolates numbers based on successful traps or catches. Various methods of finding and counting bees involve placing out bee bowls or traps that drown bees or to conduct a non-lethal netting and release of the bees. Catching bees with nets can be frustrating, especially if the weather is bad on the one day of the year that a project is able to gather data in that location. (Pictures by Elizabeth Sellers, Isaac's lab, and cittaslowusa.org)

Image result for catching bees with nets

Lead pollinator researchers in North America have told us that while learning bee identification and population mapping is important, it would be great to learn how to encourage healthy bee practices and restore native bee populations. That's awesome, and right up our alley.

We're in discussion with organizations in Illinois, Oregon, and California to work out programs for placing out Field Bee Hotels. In the first stage, we'll have the hotels in various landscapes; places where there may be no bees due to lack of habitat and sites with plenty of bees due to untouched native landscapes. The hotels are placed out in the spring, removed in the fall, and then analyzed to identify hole-nesting bees or wasps (solitary and beneficial hunters of crop pests) and their preferences for nesting-hole size and nesting material.

The bees and wasps will be stored over the winter and then released back at that same spot the following year. This program is state-of-the-art. We're pleased to introduce it!

Following years can then either continue counting and observing the bees or learn more about what makes each bee healthy. How best could we encourage their growth in numbers? If a lot of bees are raised in one location, could they be relocated to another part of their range where bees are missing? So many possibilities!

Our new field bee hotels are one way for conservation projects to get to know their area’s native and naturalized hole-nesting bees. Bee houses that are filled with easy to open nesting materials are a great way to gather species samples while also being able to measure pollen composition, cocoon sex ratios, and bee health. We can provide a much richer and more in-depth amount of information than traditional net trapping.

Bee houses can be a permanent replacement for nesting sites but they can also be used as a transitional nesting site as young trees grow and become standing dead trees. Restorative efforts can also use bee houses to learn the kinds of native plants that provide the best natural habitat. Conservation programs give advice to farmers and landowners and the knowledge gained about nesting materials can help guide farmers to building their own bee houses in the fields where they are needed.

If you or someone you know works in conservation (conservation districts, forest service, watershed stewards, land trusts, parks, etc.), please forward this newsletter to them or let them know about our program. Give us a call 1-425-949-7954 or email us at info@crownbees.com. Ask for Dave Hunter. Thanks!
 
 
We're moving forward with the native bee network web pages. It would be great if we could focus all attention here, but we're also actively answering the phone, sending out orders to online customers and nurseries across the country during this busy time of our year. 
 
What has occurred this last month has been database design and gaining great data from the US government website BISON. What a plethora of information there! It's a great resource for researchers and the public. 
 
We heard from many BeeMail readers last month. THANK YOU. We've stored your thoughts and encouragements and will be implementing many ideas.
 
Today, please consider placing out small, medium, and large holes in your mason bee houses. It's okay to only want to raise the one mason bee... but do consider placing out smaller holes as well. We want to encourage the little bees that are wonderful pollinators.










 



 
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