One of the Decatur areas earliest spring pollinators is the Mason Bee (genus Osmia). Mason Bees are a gentle, solitary, native bee. Unlike honey bees, they do not live in large colonies with a queen and thousands of worker bees. There are about 140 species of mason bees in North America.
Tolerant of cool early spring temperatures, adult Mason Bees only live for four to six weeks. During that time, they are very busy raising the next generation of bees.
In late winter / early spring, adult female mason bees emerge, mate and begin looking for suitable holes in which to nest. Unlike Carpenter Bees, Mason Bees are incapable of boring their own holes. Instead, they seek out existing holes like dried hollow plant stems, or woodpecker holes in trees. They will also use holes left behind by nails in masonry or wood siding, and will move into artificial nesting boxes.
Inside the hole, the female will -- like a mason -- construct a series of mud chambers, hence their name. Our red Georgia clay is a perfect building material for them. To encourage Mason Bees in your yard be sure to leave patches of bare, moist dirt available.
The female Mason Bee will then supply each chamber with a pile of nectar and pollen she collects, and lay a single egg in each. Sealing up the chambers with mud as she goes, the female mason bee will work her way from back to front, until she reaches the opening of the hole. She will seal the opening and then seek out another hole to begin the provisioning/egg laying process again.
Inside the chambers, the eggs will become larvae, which eat their stored food and grow until they are ready to spin a cocoon. During the pupal stage, the larvae will change into adult bees and stay in their cocoons until the following spring. Then, the adult mason bees will emerge when daily temperatures start to warm. They chew through their cocoons and push their way through the mud at front of the hole. Male Mason Bees, laid at the front of the hole, emerge first. They’ll mate with female bees as they emerge. The females will then look for holes in which to lay eggs and the year-long life cycle repeats!
As adults, Mason Bees are outstandingly efficient pollinators. They are widely used commercially alongside honey bees for pollination of early blooming fruit trees like apples.
Mason Bees produce only a single generation per year. A typical female will produce 30 offspring. Not all will survive. Some will fall victim to parasitic wasps which prey on Mason Bees during their vulnerable pupal stage.
For a Mason Bee-friendly yard:
Avoid using insecticides and herbicides
Leave patches of moist bare earth where mason bees can obtain mud
Leave snags or fallen logs
Plant native, perennial plants that bloom across a range of seasons, from early spring through fall
• Provide a water source
Make A Home For Mason Bees!
There's still time to register for Backyard Builders: Build a Home for Mason Bees! our annual Mason Bee program presented in conjunction with the Wylde Center. Join us on February 29 at Wylde Center's Edgewood Community Garden (1503 Hardee St. Atlanta) to learn about these
important spring pollinators & take home a simple mason bee house to hang in your yard. Two sessions will be held. Program times are 10:30 AM – 11:30 AM or 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM. Other details:
Drop off program
Ages 8 and up.
$7 per child for Wylde Center members
$12 per child for General Public members
Space is limited!
This workshop is part of the Wylde Family Series. The Wylde Family Series is generously presented by Intown Beth Ann LLC.
For more info see, our Facebook Event listing.
To register, Click Here.