Red Bucket Farm is an urban farm on a quarter acre property in an average residential neighborhood. We are located in Wisconsin, USDA Zone 5. We focus on chickens, bees, orchard fruit, and raised garden beds for fruits and veggies. We hope to reduce our footprint on the planet by growing some of our food, reducing our use of fossil fuels, and gardening with sustainable practices. Thanks for visiting!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Mason Bees

We put the Mason Bees outdoors this morning. They have been in storage in the refrigerator for the winter, where they remain dormant but protected from sub-zero temperatures. (I have other strange things in my fridge, too---acorns, dormant onion plants and seed potatoes. Also hops and yeast, but we consider that quite normal.)

We expect the bees to be active in a few days. They will emerge from their cocoons and immediately begin pollinating. We try to time their emergence with the blooming of early fruit trees like apricot and crab apples. A few of our trees are almost at bloom stage, and the weather looks very promising this weekend.

Mason bees are solitary creatures that operate independently. There is no hive or honey, and they do not sting. They pollinate very efficiently, much more effectively than honey bees. They look a bit like a house fly. The females lay a single egg inside a straw-like tube, pack it with a bit of food and seal it with mud. She continues to alternate additional eggs and mud until she fills the tube.

We have several blocks of nesting tubes that we can rotate for cleaning purposes. I would caution against purchasing mason bees houses that look like tubes of bamboo bundled together. How does one clean those things?

At Red Bucket Farm, we have two Mason bees houses like the one pictured above. Both houses face east to catch the warmth of morning sunshine. The houses are sheltered from rain by the wide eaves of our house. They are situated close to our orchard trees so they don't have to travel far to accomplish their job.

Sadly, we lost all our honey bees over the winter, but that's a different post. See you outdoors!