Mason Bee Keeping


Our Mason Bees did wonderful this year and we had a very late spring with 2 feet of snow in mid April. Mine didn’t do anything last year but I got 8 cocoons from my sons’ batch ( he managed to save cocoons from the year before) and my little house has 2 full holes and a few that look half full. His, however is packed, every hole is full so we will have lots to harvest this fall.

Not much was in bloom when we put them out this spring, we bought pots of flowers and put them underneath the house so they would have something to eat. I wonder if the lack of blossoms is a slight bonus, not much chance of going father away if the most of the food source is close to the house.


Wait. I thought the strategy was to put them out as the blossoms begin appearing in the orchard. No?


They should go out a bit before bloom, time to hatch and mate first

Of course if they’ve started to hatch already, you have to put them out regardless - which is what happened to mine this year


One crucial bit of advice that I learned a few years ago: Put mud available under the nest. If they can’t find mud, they’ll go elsewhere to lay their eggs, and that’s what you don’t want. I put a cottage cheese or yogurt container out with real clay mud in it, higher than the hole, drill a hole about 1 1/2 or 2 inches up so it drains and doesn’t get flooded in heavy rain. When we have dry weather many days in a row, I’ll just take a long narrow spouted watering can to make sure they’re moist. Works great and I have easily twice as many mason bees.
John S


Just like JohnS we also put out a small bucket of mud that I keep moist during the dry season. As I think I said upthread, the bees we bought last spring were hatching and moving a month before they were put out. This year our own harvested cocoons were still fully dormant well into May when we put them out.


There’s a muddy spot in my vegetable garden where the bees always go to dig - amazing that they find that place every year

I keep it watered for them


I bought to tear drop shaped mason bee nests a couple of years ago. I have not put them out on my orchard for a myriad of reasons. I know their cycle is over now, usually in June or so, but I was not sure if it would be beneficial to put it out now.
I see some people have a roof area over the top of their hives, some do not. Mine does not have a roof on it. Has anyone noticed a difference with or without a roof?


Not sure what you will attract this time of year. Maybe leaf cutters?
Anyway with mason bees, the purpose of a ‘roof’ is to protect rain from eroding the mud caps at the end of the tubes thus exposing the egg/larva/cocoon in the outer most cell. So I guess it depends on your rainfall. Perhaps under a roof overhang would be sufficient when you house mason bees.


Thank you for your answer.I want to put those homes out. I was just making sure what care I needed to do to make sure they used them.


Yet another reason to hate squirrels: they are removing my mason bee tubes to eat the larvae inside. I have found that if I have really good, tightly covered netting, they don’t bother those.
John S


That happened to me one spring - I had to reorder bees


So that’s a mason bee, huh? I have had a few of these all black bees on my property for a few years, and could never figure out what they were. Awesome.


Just out of curiosity, anybody know what would stuff a tube with grass/straw? It’s just kind of conspicuously different than the other plugged holes.


I have also had some weeds and sticks put in there. I couldn’t figure out why either.
John S


Maybe a leaf cutter bee or I believe there are a couple of wasps that do that with grass as well.


i put out 40 masons and leaf cutter cocoons this spring. got 5 tubes of masons and 12 of leaf cutters. had some borage in pots under the bee house that bloomed in late june that probably fed the leaf cutters. maybe thats why i got more of them. even tho. i didn’t get back what i put out , im sure the others didn’t nest too far away, with all my neighbors gardens, flowers and such. ill buy some cocoons every year anyway. can never have enough pollinators around.


mine stayed dormant in the fridge until i put them out in may but mine came from n. idaho so they were use to the colder climate. my leaf cutters hatched in mid june .got them from they are the cheapest supplier i could find. they are western masons and leaf cutters but western and eastern bees commonly overlap each others range and hybridize.


If the netting is tight or close against the tubes or mud caps, the parasitic wasps can lay their eggs through the tubes or mud caps. Haha, their ovipositor is legendary as shown here.. So may be a good idea to leave a buffer zone so their ovipositor cannot reach the tubes or caps.


Thanks Anne,
That is an extremely helpful video. Mine are usually in large plastic containers. The top, where the wasp would wait to stab into it, almost never has a mason bee tube in it. I doubt that they could stand vertically on the side. My netting is just at the horizontal opening.
John S


Went and looked at my house today, the only one obviously plugged by a mason bee has a hole drilled into the front of it. Does this mean a parasitic wasp has laid an egg in there? Can it be saved?