The gentle Orchard bees (also called Mason bees) are solitary bees. Solitary bees do not live in hives and are more gentle than honey bees and are not as susceptible to the problems that can devastate the honeybee hives. These dark blue insects can help fruit trees to change the beautiful spring blossoms into fruit. One full bee house can usually pollinate a backyard orchard.
Orchard bees will lay their eggs in paper tubes and cap the ends of the tube with mud. When the new bees hatch in the spring they come out of the tubes and are hungry for pollen. They will hatch to pollinate the trees at a lower temperature than the honey bees, so if there is a cool and wet spring, these bees may save your apple or cherry crop.
Here's what it looks like in a tube. The yellow stuff is the pollen. There is one egg in each cell. There is a mud partition between each cell. Can you see the bee?.
Here's the bee. She's taking a break.
Here's a bee gathering pollen on an Oregon Grape bush.
Can you see the bee leaving a nesting hole from a drilled block style bee house?
To welcome orchard bees to pollinate your backyard fruit trees you need to hang up the bee house in a sheltered spot, such as under the eaves of a building, preferably on the south or east side with some empty tubes for them to find. The brown cardboard tubes protect the paper liners where the bees will lay the eggs. Some people purchase cocoons from suppliers
Care For Your Bees
Some people take the tubes down each summer after the bees are finished laying the eggs and put the cocoons in a safe, cold place until the next spring. Other favor the “rustic” method where they let nature take its course.
There are some threats to your bees. The sapygid wasp is a insect that sneaks her egg in the same cell as the mason bee egg. The wasp larva will gobble up all the pollen and the mason bee larva is killed.
The monodontomerus wasp is a very tiny wasp that will drill a hole right through the tube and lay an egg in the cell. The wasp larva will eat up the mason bee pupa.
Birds sometimes will find the tubes and try to pull them out so they can use the shelter. Some chicken wire may discourage them.
Yellow jackets are looking for a spot to put their nest. They will not nest in the tubes, they need some room at the top. Stuff up the empty area will some crumpled newspager or more tubes.
Here's a Sapygid wasp waiting to sneak into a tube and lay her own eggs.
Get ready for next Year
After a few years, in the late summer the used paper liners should be pulled out of the tubes, discarded and replaced with some new paper liners. You can purchase more tubes and liners to fill up the bee house from suppliers.
About BumbleBees Bees
The Bumblebee is one of the most recognized native bee species in North America. These big fuzzy bees are important pollinators, of fruits and vegetables, but suffer from loss of habitat. In urban landscapes the removal of dead trees, rough grass and debris has reduced their potential nesting areas.
Bumblebees are ground nesting bees that live in a colony and will make honey for their young. Humans don’t generally harvest the honey because the bumble bees make messy nests and are not as productive as honey bees. The queen bee will lay eggs and the workers will forage for pollen and nectar for the new bees.
The colony will last only one season. The queen will hibernate in winter.
Set up Your Bumble Bee Nest
To welcome bumblebees to your backyard you need to place the bee house in a sheltered spot on the ground where it won’t get too hot, too wet or get knocked over. Place a weight such as a rock or brick on the lid to keep curious animals out. In the spring time a queen bee will buzz around the yard looking for places to nest. She is looking for an abandoned mouse nest, a hole under a foundation, a woodpile or a nesting box.
If a queen does not nest in your Bumblebee nest by mid June, plug the entrance tube and put it away until next spring. The queens are very picky and they might not find your nest this year. Somepeople paint a circle around the tube to offer a better "curb appeal" for the bees next year.
Care for your bees
Bumblebees will protect their nest if disturbed, this means they may sting. They can sting multiple times. So don’t knock over the nest!
Keep the nest in a place so the larvae stay warm and dry and mold or fungus doesn’t grow but not in direct sun so they don’t bake.
Don’t spray insecticide on blossoms.
A bumblebee house needs ventilation, fluffy nesting material and an entrance/exit tunnel.
screened vent holes
Exit/entrance is a pvc pipe.
Get ready for next year
The bumble bee colony does not survive the winter.
If your bee nest was occupied, after the bees have died, clean out the nesting material. New bedding can be soft cotton fluff or hamster bedding. Put it out again when the first trees start to blossom.
Other Beneficial Insects
About Beneficial Insects
Bob's Bug Hotel
Everybody knows bugs and insects that they do not like. Mosquitos, &Yellow Jackets, are some that are considered pests in our urban community.
There are many native insects that can be good neighbors. These are beneficial insects that go around pollinating our flowers or eating up the pesky mosquitos or eating up the aphids that make a mess of our trees. Ladybugs, solitary bees, bumblebees, some flies and wasps are beneficial insects.
Encouraging beneficial insects in your yard will reduce the aphids and other pests naturally which can reduce the need for expensive insecticides..
Good bugs need Habitat, Food and Water
In urban landscapes the removal of dead branches, rough grass and debris has reduced potential nesting or rest areas. Many people do not want to have un-slightly spots in the front yard, so there may be a small area to leave for the bugs in the back or provide them a man-made “bug hotel”.
A bug hotel tries to provide many types of material known to shelter bugs in a pleasant appearance. Pinecones, sticks, paper tubes or corrugated cardboard, tree bark can all be found in the urban area. Some holes can be drilled small logs. Place the bug hotel in a sheltered spot where it won’t get too hot, too wet or get knocked over.
The insects you hope to attract will need food. A diverse landscape is one that has plants that bloom at different times. Plants with many small blossoms are attractive to many bees—letting some lettuce, or carrots “go to seed” may be an inexpensive way to attract the pollinators.nd edit me. It's easy.
Include these plants in your garden to attract good insects: Herbs such as cilantro, dill, fennel and lovage. Native flowers like sunflowers and mints
Many insects need water and some need a little mud. A bird bath can be helpful. A shallow pan of water can be placed on the ground and filled with large pebbles or rocks.