Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Mason bee and Marriage Pickle

where did I leave off?
Oh yes,
Solitary Bees.

But before I go into the black and white information about the bees themselves, let me share my dilemma.  A little gray area of life.

The type of Mason bee house that Duke lovingly took 15 days to make for me for my birthday is a death sentence for some Mason bees. 

Yes, in the wild the bees find just this type of dwelling to lay their eggs in.  Long holes.  Preferably, 5/16" in diameter and about 4" long. (Albeit, not grouped for human interests.) 
if you, me or you, is hoping to increase the population of these brilliant pollinators, the beautiful type of house Duke built is not helping.

The problem is POLLEN MITES.  Mites, the curse of the world.
As I understand it, pollen mites can harbor in solid wood holes.
In the spring the female Mason bee, aka Orchard bee, collects a pea-size ball of pollen and nectar, which is gathered together within a channel...
natural or man-made.
A single egg is laid on top of this pearl.
Mrs. Osmia then builds a wall using mud, as a plaster, for sealing the nest.
The same bee goes off to collect more pollen to repeat the process.
Pollen ball. Egg. Wall. Pollen ball. Egg. Wall. Pollen ball. Egg. Wall...
until the tube is filled with eggs, provisioned with a nutritious mix of pollen and nectar.  Each tiny egg hatches and the larvae quickly begins to develop by eating the yummy food mama bee left for it.
During the summer, cocoons are spun and the larvae then pupates for the next 9 months. 

Are you still with me?
My problem is about to emerge. 
Come spring time, when the fruit trees' flowers start opening like popcorn, the adults are ready to leave their brood chambers.
If pollen mites have taken up residence inside of the chambers, trouble awaits. As the bee crawls out of the tunnel rubbing along passed them, the mites will cling to its wings. The bee is looking to begin its brief 6 - 10 weeks as an adult bee, but because of the mites on its wings, it cannot fly. The bees drop to the ground and die.

People who are "raising" Mason bees use either cardboard tubes, made and sold for this purpose, or they will make parchment paper liners for inside the man-drilled burrows.

 This is how pollen mites are controlled.
In the fall, the tubes or paper liners are removed from the housing and opened up. The cocoons are inspected for mites. If there are any present, they are brushed off, thus protecting the bee wings come spring. 
The cocoons are then stored in a cool dry place until spring.  Some people store them in their refrigerator. When the temperature warms and blossoms pop, the cocoons are set out. The bees will emerge and the process begins again.

From what I have read and seen on YouTube, the type of house Duke built isn't  conducive to the monitoring of pollen mites. And do I even want to be dealing with them? 
Yet, I certainly don't want to encourage bees to nest en-mass, if it is going to be a potential a death warrant for them.
The type of housing that is compatible to cardboard tubes or parchment liners
is constructed differently, i.e., the back comes off and the holes are drilled straight through, for access from the back of the condo for tube insertion and removal. (The chambers in my gift are only open in the front. I'm not sure if I would be able to get the liners out.)

I casually mentioned the mite problem to Duke and he's not buying it. 
Do I hang the Mason bee house and let nature take its course?
Do I try to line the holes with parchment paper liners and deal with any mites there might be? 

What is more important here? Accepting the gift given to me by my loving, sensitive husband of 47 years, without worrying about the bees that might die at the start of their adult life OR do I line the holes and deal with the possible mite problem and possible hurt feelings?

Marriage...and Nature...what a trip!

This post is already long enough. 
Black and white facts later this week.

t.t.f.n. ~ Carol


  1. I say, open the home for visitors. If come spring you have a bunch of dead bees beneath and it's too sad, reassess then. My feeling is that it will probably be fine. I love that you are already worrying for your bee babies. A new bee mama always worries more than necessary. :)

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  3. you said it perfectly april. the lucky bees who are able to secure a tube at the taylor house condo are going to be so pleased with their home. they could just as easily (and will/would) find another place to nest (?) that certainly would not be mite checked. so enjoy the beauty of the house, enjoy the sounds of their buzzing, and the fruits of their labor in their pollination, and enjoy your lovely duke of husband. -jennifer