Mason Bee Keeping


My garden also attracts a fair number of bumble bees which i love. They’re so fat and cute as they get busy in the blossoms. I have lots of masons and bumbles but fewer honey bees actively pollinating my urban orchard. They love the fruit trees and bluberry blossoms early then move onto the Thornless blackberry when those bloom.


Also around here i bought most of my mason bee coccoons from avid gardeners off Craigslist in the early spring.


honey bees aren’t native to n. maine. if you see one its from beekeepers that protect the hive in the winter. mostly bumbles with some masons around here. set up 2 blocks last spring and have about 15 holes that have been used. bumbles all over my raspberries right now.


My slow rate of occupancy is the mason bees way of saying that they will move into that lousy joint only as a last resort. Now we are three.


when i first put out my blocks i only had a few. now they seem to be gaining in numbers! yay! bet you’ll get more residents next season!


That is encouraging. Thanks


According to Crown Bees, the hollow tubes in a tube like jbclems’ top photo work best and natural tubes like teasel are the best of the best. They do build up over time. Each year I need to add more and I get amazing fruit set for a small yard.
John S


If you order a few bees to start with from a place like Crown, they’ll multiply very rapidly and you’ll probably have them forever


Would now be a good time to harvest the cocoons from the laminates?


Yes, although it could also wait a month or two


I harvested mine today and quite disappointing. I didn’t even get as many cocoons back as what I put out. I thought the wood laminates made a lot of sense when I ordered the bees but the final return was bad. I was hoping for 300% percent return but for what ever reason the results were not stellar. I may have put them out too early and maybe there wasn’t enough pollen sources available. And maybe the laminants just aren’t that good.


Which ones did you use?

I have a post here from last week about harvesting mine and what I used and recommend


I use the wood trays from Crown Bees.


I’ve used those, but I get much better results from their tubes and coated inserts

The wooden ones were full of pollen mites


We used the plastic reusable ones, they were easy to open and harvest. From 10 cocoons we got 60 so the return was better than expected. We did not get the cocoons out until May 21 so we were worried that they had spent too long in refrigeration. In fact, we got the cocoons 3 weeks earlier in the mail and some had hatched, yet, when put back in the fridge they were still alive when they went out.
Now all the cocoons are tucked in the fridge so we will see if they are alive in the spring.


I get mine out by February, because they often wake up by then here. Their research showed that different tubes attract more, because they see them better. It also looks more like nature. I should probably stop putting out mason bees because I’m breaking branches every year in many types of fruit.
John S


If I put mine out in February they wouldnt have any pollen source.


It’s very climate dependent. We have cornus mas flowering in late February and it is often 55 degrees. It’s rainy and the honey bees aren’t out, but here, the mason bees are. Sometimes it’s early March, but then many flowering plants are out and you’re definitely going to miss them. I don’t really put the bee cocoons out or pull them in. They are native and I just leave them out there. I add tubes by February, so when they get pollen, they have a place to put their babies. Obviously, it would be earlier in S. Ca and later in Minnesota.
John S


I harvested my cocoons today. Two holes ended up getting plugged for a total of 19 cocoons. 10 of them look typical (top photo). The other 9 are very dark and shiny (bottom photo). All the dark ones were toward the opening. Not sure if these are males or a different species. I cut one shiny one open and it definitely looks like a mason bee. He is fully developed and quite lively. I’m glad I was able to get a few. They are sleeping in the fridge now. I had two other holes plugged with a shiny substance with a long skinny cocoon in there but no masons.


Males are smaller and do get deposited last, at the opening. I guess I hadn’t noticed that they were significantly different color and gloss, but I haven’t processed them in years.