Mason Bees – The Great Pollinator

Mason Bees  –  The Great Pollinator

by Sandy Juba

 

TGO Nature Center, TGO, Nature, Education, Mason Bee, Bees, Insects

Photo Courtesy of Sandy Juba

 

We have a new bee house located underneath our bat house at the TGO Nature Center.  Since bees have become so endangered, we have installed housing for these native mason bees.  Here is a little bit of information on these special insects along with a few pictures.

Mason bees are a type of native bee that’s quite common throughout most of the U.S. They are usually a little smaller than a honeybee, and typically metallic blue or blue-black in color. They get their name from their habit of nest-building, which is to seal off the cells where they lay their eggs, with a mortar-like application of mud.  There are about 140 species of mason bees in North America. All are solitary bees. The males do not have a stinger, and the females will only sting if trapped or squeezed.  These bees also do not make honey.

Female mason bees emerge in early spring and immediately begin to forage for pollen and nectar, which they collect from fruit trees, berries, flowers and vegetables. They pack this food into the far end of their nesting cavity until they decide there’s enough there to feed a young bee. Then she lays an egg and seals up the cell. This process continues until the bee has filled the entire chamber with a series of pollen/nectar/egg cells.  The eggs that are destined to be female are always deposited at the back of the nesting chamber; the male bees will emerge first.

Mason bee larvae hatch just a few days after the eggs are laid. They munch away on the food that’s been stored in their cell, which usually lasts them about 10 days. Then the larva spins a cocoon and pupates. By autumn, the insects look like an adult bee, but they remain inside their cocoons throughout the winter. When the weather warms in the spring, the males break through first; the females emerge several days later to start the cycle all over again.

 

TGO Nature Center, TGO, Nature, Education, Mason Bee, Bees, Insects

Photo Courtesy of Sandy Juba

 

 

TGO Nature Center – “Living in Harmony with Nature

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