Mason Bee Fun Facts
There are over 4000 bee species in North America! One of the most well known is the Mason bee—perhaps because of the many different educational programs touting the many benefits of the Mason bee. Here are a few fun facts and some of the reasons for our love affair with these mega pollinators:
- They are called Mason bees because, rather than using a wax comb as in a honey bee colony, they use mud to partition and seal their egg compartments.
- They are solitary bees—they have no colony, queen or worker bees to assist with reproduction. The female mates with a male, lays her eggs and dies about 10 weeks later.
- They are some of the first bees to emerge in the spring—they can tolerate temperatures down to 12C (55F).
- They do not make honey—they eat pollen and nectar throughout their lives as they forage but do not need to store food supplies because the adult bee dies before the weather gets cold.
- They are excellent pollinators—mostly because they gather pollen all over their bodies by crashing into a flower. The pollen is more easily distributed because of this messy gathering/lack of flying finesse.
- They make their nests about 300 feet from a good selection of flowers and don’t forage further afield.
Setting up a Mason bee house on your property can give you lots of entertainment as well as your own personal pollinators if you provide them with their basic needs. Basic needs include flowering plants, water, food, moist clay-like soil for their masonry work, and protection. A book highly recommended by Al Morton, our local Mason bee guru, is ‘Pollination with Mason Bees’ by Dr. Margriet Dogterom.