Harvesting my mason bees

A report on this year’s bee harvest

I brought them inside at the end of June, but it’s time to refrigerate them now to simulate winter conditions

I’ve tried several different methods of keeping the bees, and I now prefer the cardboard tubes with inserts from Crown Bees. More to the point, the bees clearly prefer the tubes. The coating on the inserts makes them easy at harvest to slide out of the protective cardboard tube [unlike some others I’ve tried] and they tear open easily.

I found every tube filled with bee cocoons, usually a dozen or more, in good condition. Very little evidence of disease, pests, or parasitism.

The only problem I have with these tubes is from the small hole at the closed end of the outer cardboard tube. This, says the manufacturer, is a feature not a bug, but in the few cases where I found wasp parasitism, it was in a cocoon at that end. I now plan to seal this hole with a drop of white glue for protection.

I also used their wooden stacking trays but both the bees and I find them inferior to the tubes. Not all the slots were filled with cocoons and there was more evidence of pests and parasites. I think this is because the trays don’t fit together tightly enough to exclude them - particularly because they can warp out of true due to moisture.

A note on the parasitic wasps [monodontomerus]: I find it difficult to “candle” 100s of bee cocoons to determine which ones are infested. On the theory that the wasp hatches later than the bee, in order to attack the cocoons when they are formed, I remove and destroy any that haven’t hatched with the others in the spring.


i have some homemade mason bee blocks around the yard but plan to by some cocoons next spring and get the tubes to protect them like you’re doing. we don’t have any honey bees up here so its up to the masons and bumbles to do most of our pollinating.