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Mason Bees, are they worth the investment?

 
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I see a very nice home for mason bees (96 hole stackable trays) for $49 at Crown Bees.  $30 for 20 mason bees.   Is the $80 investment worth it?  That's quite a bit of money to me since I try to keep the costs down.  Just wondering how much they will help with pollinating my six 4' x 4' raised garden beds.  The home would be less than 8 feet from the nearest bed.  It is an old neighborhood and there are many trees, just wondering if they would just go to them and not bother with my garden.
 
steward
Posts: 5376
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
2020
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Around here, mason bees can be collected in the wild. It's just a matter of having the right sized holes available when they are laying eggs.
 
pollinator
Posts: 120
Location: North Idaho
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Pretty easy to drill and make your own bee boards...

Just stack the wood and clamp them all together and drill your holes between the pieces of wood allowing you to later take them apart and harvest your progeny.  You could make an awful lot of bee boards for $80.  There are also some very cool designs out there now as well, I was looking around at all that last year as I have a "lot" of leaf cutter bees here that hang around my basswood tree.  I have no interest in selling any, I just I might propagate them and increase the numbers for better pollination of my plants and gardens.
 
pollinator
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Location: Victoria BC
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As above, easy to make, no need to spend money if you have a drill. And if you don't, an old corded drill is worth max $5 these days!

I've also just gone around with a 5/16 drill shooting holes into wood in sheltered spots. If you are planning to leave them alone rather than clean and potentially collect this is a mighty quick way to add some housing.


As far as 'worth it' goes, my parents have a healthy population of mason bees, and it is notable that at least for them in the PNW, the window of activity is fairly short, and often coincides with basically nothing. Way too early for annuals, and often not quite right for most of the fruit trees either..
 
Roy Long
pollinator
Posts: 120
Location: North Idaho
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D Nikolls wrote:As above, easy to make, no need to spend money if you have a drill. And if you don't, an old corded drill is worth max $5 these days!

I've also just gone around with a 5/16 drill shooting holes into wood in sheltered spots. If you are planning to leave them alone rather than clean and potentially collect this is a mighty quick way to add some housing.


As far as 'worth it' goes, my parents have a healthy population of mason bees, and it is notable that at least for them in the PNW, the window of activity is fairly short, and often coincides with basically nothing. Way too early for annuals, and often not quite right for most of the fruit trees either..



They are popular here for alfalfa crops, farmers pay big money for leaf cutter bee boards.  They attach them to trailers and haul them out into the fields to pollinate for alfalfa seed.  Also used commercially for onions, carrots, blueberries and various fruits and vegetables.  Quite useful little buggers and seem to be cheaper, easier and survive better than going with bee hives.
 
D Nikolls
pollinator
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Location: Victoria BC
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Roy Long wrote:

D Nikolls wrote:As above, easy to make, no need to spend money if you have a drill. And if you don't, an old corded drill is worth max $5 these days!

I've also just gone around with a 5/16 drill shooting holes into wood in sheltered spots. If you are planning to leave them alone rather than clean and potentially collect this is a mighty quick way to add some housing.


As far as 'worth it' goes, my parents have a healthy population of mason bees, and it is notable that at least for them in the PNW, the window of activity is fairly short, and often coincides with basically nothing. Way too early for annuals, and often not quite right for most of the fruit trees either..



They are popular here for alfalfa crops, farmers pay big money for leaf cutter bee boards.  They attach them to trailers and haul them out into the fields to pollinate for alfalfa seed.  Also used commercially for onions, carrots, blueberries and various fruits and vegetables.  Quite useful little buggers and seem to be cheaper, easier and survive better than going with bee hives.




I expect that one could readily manipulate their presence by keeping the cocoons chilled until wanted, and in some places they may naturally align with desired pollination windows.. but in this particular location, not so much!
 
Posts: 99
Location: Washington coast
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I have kept honeybees and mason bees and even transplanted nests of bumblebees.  Overall, my impression is that none of these do a very good job unless you are in monocrop country.  My pollinators are overwhelmingly native, even when I have had large numbers of foreign bees.  The native bees don't like or need management.  They nest where they prefer and I am not going to do a better job at figuring out what they need.  As I got out of beekeeping, the number of native pollinators increased substantially.  I think if you give it time, your native pollinators will show up and do the job.  Mason bees are mostly a good way for nurseries to make an extra buck.
 
gardener
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Location: Western Washington
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William Whitson wrote:I have kept honeybees and mason bees and even transplanted nests of bumblebees.  Overall, my impression is that none of these do a very good job unless you are in monocrop country.  My pollinators are overwhelmingly native, even when I have had large numbers of foreign bees.  The native bees don't like or need management.  They nest where they prefer and I am not going to do a better job at figuring out what they need.  As I got out of beekeeping, the number of native pollinators increased substantially.  I think if you give it time, your native pollinators will show up and do the job.  Mason bees are mostly a good way for nurseries to make an extra buck.




Mason bees and bumblebees are types of native bees.

I too have experienced an increase in pollinators just by planting forage and discouraging spraying. I think building your own pollinator hotel might be beneficial but it's true that they just seem to figure things out
 
William Whitson
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Location: Washington coast
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Well, all bees are native somewhere, but I have never seen a mason bee here that wasn't introduced and we have only one common species of bumblebee, even though there are four pretty common ones just a few miles inland.  On the other hand, we have all kinds of small, native bees that show up in large numbers every year without any extra work and fly in conditions that have the introduced bees shivering in their nests.  It did take some time for their numbers to build up in response to crops though.  For example, for a couple of years, I had very few pollinators on oca, but the flowers are now mobbed by five or six different species of small bees and flies.
 
gardener
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I have a food forest and I raise mason bees. After raising mason bees, my fruit harvest doubled, then tripled.  It is easy to build the houses. I make them out of teasel, an invasive plant, that has many stems that are about the right size.  Crown bees showed that they like natural stems the best.  I drill out the ones that arent' the right size.  We break limbs each year from having too much fruit.  A good problem to have.
John S
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