Only 10% of bee species are social bees that live in hives. 90% of the rest of the world’s bee species are solitary hive-less bees.
Mason bees are solitary hole-nesting bees, meaning they work alone with no colony to protect. This fact inherently makes them less likely to sting and a very gentle species of bees overall. There are over a few 100 hundred different species of mason bees, but one of the more prolific bees native to the Pacific Northwest is called a spring mason bee or a Blue Orchard Mason Bee. They are active in early spring and can fly in cooler weather than honey bees. Mason bees are ideal for spring gardens as their activity matches perfectly with blooms of fruit and nut trees and many berry plants. They are excellent cross pollinators and are very easy to raise and are a fantastic way to help booster bee diversity in your backyard.
In contrast to keeping honey bees, raising mason bees is very simple, less time consuming, and easier on the wallet! In a full year of raising mason bees, you can expect to spend about 1-3 hours on bee-related tasks. There are seven necessary steps from start to finish in a year of raising mason bees:
- Purchase house and native cocoons
- Release cocoons (Mason bees in spring, Leafcutter in summer)
- Wait and watch
- Remove and protect
- Store nesting holes
- Harvest Cocoons
- Store Cocoons
Its simple and super fun to watch your little mason bees coming and going as they build their nest, lay their young, and pollinate your garden. You can find mason bee houses locally, online, or even make your own. I’ve made a number of my own this year using recycled wine bottles. The most important thing to remember when choosing supplies is to make sure the mason bee cocoons you’re sourcing are native to your area. I find Crown Bees in Woodinville WA to be one of the best overall sources for all the information and supplies you will need to get started, happy beekeeping!