Monday, 27 August 2012

Mason Bees Vs. Honey Bees

When you’re the typical bee that most people recognise, a honey bee, a night on the town can be very expensive. A typical colony can contain anywhere of up to 60,000 bees so you can imagine the bar tab. Mason bees are a bit more shy and enjoy bee-ing by themselves, making for more manageable drink bills.

    If mason bees live alone, why would they want to nest in the bee boxes? Well, Dr. Margriet Dogterom’s book Pollination With Mason Bees, uses a very easy to understand analogy. She says to think of them like renters. Now most of us have rented in some point in our lives, or know someone who rents. A typical apartment building can house lots of people, and these renters may never interact. Mason bees are very much like this. Just because they live in the same building doesn’t mean they live together.
A Blue Orchard Mason Bee
Source - 

    If you’ve just moved into an apartment building or are visiting a friend, it can sometimes be hard to find the right door. Mason bees have some trouble with this too! A mason bee house like the one in Tanya’s past post or like the ones we will be building ideally should be marked with colours at the entrance so bees can easily find their’s. It is suggested that grouped together houses have a simple design across the whole face of the box. For example a big blue X or a V can be helpful. It is even helpful to paint each tunnel with colour. The key is simplicity. One or two colours per house.

Just like our homes, each ‘apartment’ of a mason bee house is home to several bees from the same mother. This is where the depth of the tunnels comes into play. Mason bees lay their eggs in a particular way: females at the back and males near the front. A shorter tunnel means that there will be less female eggs laid, resulting in an abundance of males from that family.

   Once the bees lay their eggs, they seal up the opening of the tunnel with a mud mixture. The baby mason bees then begin the process of developing into fully-grown bees for next spring.

    It is over this time of development that we will be helping the bees along. We'll detail this in future blog posts as well as in a printable booklet to keep handy!


Dogterom, D. (2009). Pollination with mason bees: A gardener’s guide to managing mason bees for fruit production. Coquitlam, BC: Beediverse publishing of CPC Ltd.

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