Get to know our native Mason Bees
This is the second in a series of columns prepared by the staff at the award winning West Seattle Nursery. The Nursery is open for shopping, following COVID guidelines and they offer an array of trees, shrubs, bedding plants, garden supplies, decor and gift items. They are located at 5275 California Ave SW and you can find them online at https://www.westseattlenursery.com
Unlike other bees, mason bees are solitary: they do not live in a hive, support a queen, or make honey. They are gentle, non-aggressive bees, and rarely sting.
Mason bees are prolific pollinators, up to 120 times more effective than honey bees or bumblebees. Other bees gather pollen only on their legs, but mason bees do belly flops onto flower blossoms, and gather pollen all over their bodies. They carry that pollen to as many as 2,000 flowers a day.
Mason bees are not long-lived. The males live only long enough to mate, about two weeks. Females live up to six weeks. During that time, they transport pollen, find or create nests, and lay their eggs.
Gardeners can help the bees by setting out mason bee houses in early March. Hollow tubes are inserted inside the house where the female lays her eggs. When the tubes are full of eggs, pollen, and nectar, she caps the chamber with mud. The mud looks a bit like the mortar used in masonry, thus the name “mason” bee.
If this is your first year of mason bee keeping, buy a few cocoons to add to your house. When the weather is warm enough, the bees will hatch and go to work.
Mason bee houses, cocoons, and supplies are available at most garden centers including West Seattle Nursery.