Learning to Do What's Natural
June 2017 | crownbees.com
What's in this Issue:
1. Tips and Reminders - Summer Leafcutter Bees
2. Tips and Reminders - Spring Mason Bees
3. The Hidden Dangers of Bamboo
4. New: Bee Defender & Farmer's Market Vendor Kit
5. Social Connections: Join BeeWithMe
6. Pollinator Week: June 19-25, 2017
 Tips and Reminders - Summer Leafcutter Bees
We're surprised with the amount of farmers and gardeners trying out leafcutter bees. We project we'll see more people raising leafcutter bees than mason bees. That's awesome. The bees might be easier to raise than the spring mason bees because mud isn't an issue, rather just leaf bits found in all yards! ~ Dave
Leafcutter Bees Love Summer Weather!
Our leafcutter bees fly best in warm summer weather when daytime temperatures are consistently above 75*F. In the Pacific Northwest, our warm weather for leafcutter bees typically arrives around the fourth of July. For the rest of the country, the summer heat is arriving now and it's time to start raising leafcutter bees to pollinate your garden's flowers, veggies, melons, and fruits! 
Swap out nesting materials for leafcutter bees. Once your mason bee activity is done, you can remove their larger 8mm nesting holes and replace with smaller 6mm nesting holes made for leafcutter bees. Reusable wooden trays should be placed as far back in the bee house as possible. Loose 6mm nesting holes should be arranged a little haphazardly, if possible. Leafcutter bees also use sight to help guide them to their nesting hole, and then they double check their home with their individual scent. 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 find a leafcutter bee cutting a hole in a leaf, please take a video or pictures of the action. We'd like to share this on our website.
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. 
We've covered how to incubate your leafcutter bees in previous editions. You can see the archives here.
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.
Tips and Reminders - Spring Mason Bees
For many of you, mason bee activity is starting to wind down. If you recently started raising these gentle bees, you may want to look at our BeeMail archives to follow our previous tips and reminders. 
Remove filled nesting holes. You should protect the filled nesting materials from birds, ants, and parasitic wasps by removing the mud-capped nesting materials from the bee house. Place filled nesting materials with the capped end facing up inside of a BeeGuardian bag. Ants and parasitic wasps cannot get through the fine mesh material of this protective bag. Storing nesting materials capped end up ensures that the precious bee eggs are on top of their pollen loaves. Keep filled nesting material in a location that has similar warm temperatures to the outdoor weather, like an unheated garage or garden shed. Mason bee larvae need the warm summer weather as they feed and develop.
  • For reusable wooden nesting trays: Wait until all female bee activity has stopped before removing and protecting.
  • For reeds and cardboard tubes: remove each filled nesting hole as they are completed. Wait until after dusk, this will help any remaining nesting female to reorient to the look of her new home in the morning. Store loose reeds and tubes capped end facing up inside of a jar or box within the BeeGuardian bag. 
What's inside of a mason bee nesting hole? Within two weeks of being laid, mason bee eggs hatch into very small larvae and begin to eat their pollen loaf right away. Each nesting chamber has a pollen loaf, which is a mix of pollen and nectar, a single egg, and protective mud walls between each chamber. We have been taking pictures of Emily's (our office manager) special mason bee observation nest here at the office. In the picture below, the large larvae are about 5 weeks old and the smaller larva is a week or two behind. The black spots on the larva are the larva's poo, also called frass, and once the larva starts spinning its cocoon it will move the frass out of the way. You will find a lot of frass as you harvest cocoons in the fall.
All about mono, the parasitic wasp.
Monodontomerus, also known as mono, is a parasitic wasp that may have laid eggs in the mason bee larvae last summer. Mason bee larvae live long enough to spin cocoons, then the mono eggs hatch and kill the larvae, and now the mono larvae are encased in the mason bee cocoon. Typically, this wasp emerges around the beginning of May, but with the late spring weather, their emergence may be offset to the beginning of June. Adult mono wasps emerge from mason bee cocoons and will look to infect new mason bee larva. Female mono wasps look for the weak spot on the side of a tube, a small crack in a reed, or even through the end of a mud cap.
  • What to look for: adult mono wasps are gnat-sized and have all black bodies. When they are checking out your bee house they fly in a zig zag pattern and tend to hoover. Mono wasp larvae are also white and look like small grains of rice. (Our new Bee Defender product will trap and  should eliminate this pest. It will be available next weekend.)

The Hidden Dangers of Bamboo
Whether you've been raising mason and leafcutter bees for a while, or just started, you've probably heard us repeatedly tell you that the only way to maintain and ensure the health of your bees is to harvest their cocoons.
Large garden distributors that produce and sell bee houses that are made from drilled blocks of wood or bamboo shoots are actually doing more harm than good for local hole-nesting bees. These companies intentions are in the right place but they lack the knowledge of the pests and diseases that can harm bees.
Dave recently made this short educational video about the hidden dangers of bamboo tubes. 
There are many problems with bamboo tubes as nesting materials for hole-nesting bees. They are not typically measured to be the right diameter for hole nesting bees. We've seen bamboo tubes that were large enough for a frog to sit inside (see the lowest hole in the picture) - these tubes are much too big for any bee to nest within. Hole-nesting bees also prefer the nesting tube to be closed off at the back end and if it's open the eggs laid in the back are vulnerable to attack by parasitic wasps. Bees are used to natural nesting holes that are closed at one end and they won't use a hole that is not safe.
Bamboo shoots commercially sold tend to have walls that are too thick to open safely. Bamboo tends to form sharp splinters as it is split apart and you may hurt yourself or your bees as you try to open the shoot and harvest cocoons. Bamboo is a natural material but it is actually an exotic plant that our North American native bees did not evolve to nest within.
The goal of these large suppliers is to sell a product that fits the trend of the phrase "save the bees", but if you really, truly, want to save the bees, give them nesting habitat that is well designed with the health and safety of the bees in mind. 
We've written a blog post that includes the video link and covers all the other reasons that make bamboo a poor nesting material for hole-nesting bees. We want you to be successful in raising hole-nesting bees and we care about the health of our bees. Please watch and share this video and information with your friends on Facebook!
New Products!
Bee Defender for Leafcutter and Mason bees
We are finally complete with our new product that will help 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 next Friday (the glue is being applied early next week.) We're REALLY excited about this product!
Essentially, the wasps are attracted to the same pheromone that attracts the bees. Place that scent in a lure that is stuck to a glue pad. Now the surround that glue trap with a mesh bag with holes too small for bees to enter... It's that simple! Pests walk in and are stuck to the glue. 
If you plan to participate with us in the Bee BuyBack program, we strongly urge you to purchase a Bee Defender.
Farmer's Market Vendor Kit
We've had multiple people across the country approach us about spreading the word of (and selling) native bee raising products at local Farmer's Markets.
We listened and developed a program for these local native bee champions!
The program is simple; order the kit from the website and we'll also send along a file for printing out a banner locally. Refilling products is simple as well. All products are about 40% off our website prices.
This product is in the Wholesale Inquiries section of our shop.
If you have an interest, look at the kit and read the detailed description on the lower portion of the page. Help us reach and teach others!  Don't be nervous about what you know or don't know... in that Farmer's Market, you will be the local expert. We're pleased to team with you.
Social Connections: Join our BeeWithMe Group
All are welcome to join our BeeWithMe Facebook group page! BeeWithMe is a great way to connect with other passionate native bee advocates and learn about sustainable solutions for your backyards, how to maintain native bee health, and share success tips for your local region and community.
There is a difference between our normal Facebook Crown Bees page and the BeeWithMe Facebook group page. Today, although our Crown Bees page has high engagement, you only see about 10-20% of the posts on your wall.  With a group page, it is much more controlled. The posts are very specific and moderated so that only good content is seen and shared. You will find more focused posts showing up on your wall. 
I look forward to chatting with you there!
~ Demarus
Pollinator Week: June 19-25, 2017
It's time to celebrate Pollinator Week! Every year, the Pollinator Partnership works with the USDA and the US
 Department of the Interior to designate a week to celebrate, protect, and highlight the work of pollinators. Find a local event that you can attend to support pollinator efforts.
Can't find an event near you? Why not host one yourself? You are a local native bee expert, after all, and you can easily use our PowerPoint presentation to give a talk. Check out the materials we have available for download at our Talk & Teach Presentations page. We have a simple guideline of talking points called "Talking Points for Teaching Children" and our printable "Neighborhood Postcard" that listeners can take home to remind them of your presentation.
Our plan to celebrate Pollinator Week is to share some interesting wild hole-nesting bees that were attracted to Emily's nesting materials last spring and summer. We are also going to highlight information on native NW flowering berry plants, which feed people and native bees. Join in on the fun at our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts!
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