Bee Guardianship

In 2018 we are going to be bee guardians for a collection of Red Mason Bees. Mason Bees are solitary bees who nest in holes and then use mud to cover the entrance and the Red Mason Bee, Osmia bicornis, is not doing very well and needs help.

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The idea is that we get sent cocoons in March 2018, we hatch out the bees and let them live in the meadows. They don’t go far – the female is thought not to travel more than 30m and she will spend the summer feeding on the lovely blossom. In due course she will lay eggs in the tubes that we also put out. The tubes are then sent back to the company who open the tubes up, clean out any predators and send out another batch sent out the following year. Obviously the hope is that each year you are sending back more bees than you start off with but I understand that this was not the case in 2016 when they suffered a terrible year.

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Internet photo of a Red Mason Bee. Unlike Honey Bees, it carries pollen on its tummy rather than on its legs. They are ‘Red’ Mason Bees because of a covering of dense gingery hair.

These bees are 120 – 200 times more efficient pollinators than Honey Bees. As well as helping the species in its struggle to survive, we get the additional advantage of having these bees pollinate our orchard and allotment. The company gets the additional benefit of also selling the cocoons to farmers to help with their crops.

So the bees are arriving next Spring but the company has sent us out equipment already

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and recommends that we put up the tubes this year and any bees that are already present may use the tubes to nest in. We can then send the filled tubes back this year if that happens.

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The tubes are meant to be 1.5m from the ground, facing south east in full sun and angled slightly down so that rain can run out. We have put ours in the corner of the allotment.

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If we have Mason Bees here in the meadows already, they will be on the wing until July and so maybe we will be successful. Time will tell.

 

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