Solitary bees that nest in holes protect their pollen/egg chamber with something. Some spring bees use mud, others use leaf bits, chewed up leafy material, resin, cotton from flowers, etc. What is in the area that the bees evolved with is what they'll use for protecting that chamber.
Only honey bees use wax like this. Bumbles will as well.
and nope... solitary bees.
#1- all bees start from eggs that consume pollen and turn into larva. some bees are larva through the summer and metamorphous into bees by the end of summer. They are typically spring mason bees. Other bees overwinter as the larva and do their development to bees in the early spring through early summer. This is what you have here. All good bees, just needing a bit of energy to become summer bees.
#2 - exactly what you said. parasitic solitary wasps that are optimal predators to your acreage.
#3 - carpet beetles. Scavengers that shred through everything living. kill them.
#4 - don't recognize the species... if they were found in a chamber for each, then solitary bee, on the tiny side. if multiple in one chamber, then potentially wasp, though could be a parasite that nuked the bee that should have been in there.
I don't believe there are any Osmia (aka mason) species in the southern hemisphere. I know you have the European leafcutter bees that were introduced to Australia decades ago. Your best bet is to not worry about the clay, but focus where there is abundant pollen. place out holes that range from 4mm-10mm ID and about 15cm's long. keep these facing morning sun.
Bees use mud, resin, cotton, leaf bits, etc. to close off their egg/pollen chambers.
Just a small yellow flag Bryant, I've heard that cedar has natural insecticides built into it while still wet. Using it for a house is great. Using it for the nesting holes might not be wise. I'd wait a few years prior to doing that.
Do consider using holes that you can open up,like reeds, paper tubes or wood trays. Pest management.
Howard invited me to teach about solitary hole nesting bees at the PDC via Skype. It would be best to do this in person, but I'm running short of time. So... my hour with you will be restricted to a face on a big screen in front of you.
Permies, and especially the PDC, is a wonderful environment to learn. I truly wish I could be there.
What we'll cover in this session:
I know a lot about pollination and how to make food pollinated. I've worked with researchers and commercial mason bee and honey beekeepers. It may surprise that we're doing things wrong. Monoculture started the whole honey bee mess...
here's a rough outline:
Outline honey bees... why we use them today as pollinators. Small history and digging into "why the bee gathers honey, stings, and how it operates." You're going to lose some assumptions you made here.
Introduce you to solitary bees. In particular, hole nesting bees that are super-pollinating bees. No honey, but great pollinators. Again... we'll look at the "why's" of the insect, not just "how to."
And some how-to's on both mason and leafcutter bees.
Why should you know about different types of bees? Less problems, they're native, and once you understand how and why they live/pollinate, you'll be able to use them in your gardens to produce more food.
How to live with the land and how to work with the land is important. How to get the most food from your land involves working with bees.
When we use something simple like DE to get rid of our bugs in the yard, aren't we getting rid of all bugs, both pest AND beneficial? When we look to use a broad spectrum insecticide, natural or chemical, we're taking our yard out of balance.
I must be missing something but this seems like a basic "out of balance with nature" solution. I understand non-chemical... help me understand how having a yard devoid of bugs is a good thing?
Zach, the blue orchard mason bee is native to most of North America. We raise them in Washington as well as multiple states throughout the US. Try placing out wood trays or reeds to see what uses them. Visit our website to learn more about these awesome little pollinators. Signing up for "Bee-Mail" has you being reminded when to do what!
Nicola, bamboo is not great to use as it's brutal to harvest from. Try phragmites or teasel. The EasyTears work well. Wood trays are the best as they retain the nesting scent from the previous season and are extremely easy to harvest from.
That's exactly what I do as we come across any chalkbrood. EVERYTHING that touched it, the trays, the counter, any tools, our sieves, rock tumblers, etc. are all dunked into a 1 cup to 1 gallon tub of bleach water. Rinsed, and then dried. All cocoons are as well. The bleach will kill the spore, but leave the bees fine. Don't leave the cocoons in the bleach water longer than a minute or two. Total water bath time can exceed 15 minutes, but 3 or so is fine.
Glad you're out there raising these bees Patrick. Spread the word!
The dead larva is crescent shaped and when touched, the outer shell of it breaks apart easily. This is the nasty part about leaving your mason bee nests unharvested. If the chalkbrood is left in the tube/hole, mason bees inside of the chalkbrood have to brush past it to emerge in the spring.
The chalkbrood spore is now on wall of the hole, on the outside of the house, and on blossoms nearby. 3 grains of this left in a chamber for the next season's larva to lick up will perpetuate the cycle.
Harvesting is a must if you want to increase your production.
One of the mistakes beginning mason bee keepers make is that they forget (or don't know) to harvest bees in the fall. If you let bees survive on their own, mite infestation occurs and you begin to lose more bees than you started with.
That's why bamboo isn't a great nesting reed. It's too strong and can't be opened without killing the bees.
Reeds, on the other hand are awesome... unless you leave the bees on their own.
Why manage bees? It's the same thing as managing cows or sheep. If you don't care for them, pests/disease overrun.
It pays to have friends in great places. A peer of mine, Dr. Karen Strickler of Polinator Paradise, gave me this advice Dale on the green bee that I though could have been Osmia aglaia...
Your photos are not O. aglaia, the body is too rough. O. aglaia have a smooth exoskeleton. I think that your photo is Chrysidid wasps, cuckoo wasps. The Peterson Field Guide to the insects says they are metallic green or blue, usually with coarse sculpturing; Abdomen with 4 or fewer segments, concave beneath, the last abdominal segment often toothed at the tip. When disturbed they often curl into a ball. They do not sting. Larvae are parasites in nests of other wasps and bees.
That would have been awesome had it been the aglaia as it's a superior polinator for berries. Nonetheless... these are beautiful photos Dale.
The "green" fly is a bee. I suggest that it's an Osmia aglaia, but it's out of it's neighborhood if so. The aglaia lives south of the Columbia River through Northern CA and on the west side of the Rockies. It's cousin, the Osmia bruneri lives east of the rockies and looks very similar.
Dale... are you trying to rear any of these with a variety of hole sizes to encourage their growth in your yard/area? The aglaia needs a 6mm hole. I've got that if you're looking. A variety of reed sizes will encourage multiple species through the summer. Big bees use big holes, little... use little.
that last photo with the strange striping is a wool carder. She gathers the down(?) from flowers and stuffs that into a hole for her nesting material. Tons of pollen in that hole, an egg, and then more flower down. I suggest that it's a predator barrier of some nature?
The male is VERY territorial and larger than the female in this species. He patrols a 3 m x 3 m area and will attack/kill any other bee coming into his turf through "squishing" them with his horny spikes on his abdomen. Visiting wool carder females, of course, are given a welcome reception.
They are great generalist pollinators.
some of your other pictures have "mock" flies in there. You can tell them apart by their fly like eyes and antenna. Plus only two wings rather than 4. Evolution has them looking like a bee. They do pollinate, but i have no idea where they lay their eggs or what they're doing with the pollen/nectar. I suggest they are consuming it directly rather than using it for progeny.
"gnawed" says something with teeth looking for a snack. If under eaves, then probably not a bear, though they'll get what they want where they want. Racoon or squirrel, my opinion. Not rat, unless you're on that Norwegian warf?
You both are preaching to the choir. Tel, I appreciate your insight as it is similar to where I have to be in about 3 years.
Right now I'm trying to help as many people as possible learn that not all bees sting. Don't just read these words but DO and TRY something. Be proactive.
Next step is to help these people be successful. Raise too many bees and share them with friends/neighbors/family. Help them be successful as well.
Next is to begin an educational shift with the commercial orchards. Start with the organics first.
- Bare dirt is there for a reason, but I don't understand it. Replace it with beds of pollen rich flowers that can be mowed when under bloomtime.
- Spraying fungicide ~ spraying pesticides... each have their place but I would like to believe their are options.
- Training the farmer that these bees have to live for next year... you don't rent them, you own them. It's a different thing. Money might talk.
Lastly would be to shift excess gardener bees to orchards that get it. ...and have changed their practices. Kind of a reward? Sure, it would be great if everyone in the world grew their own food, but that won't change until I'm worm food myself.
So... I'm in phase 1 right now. Helping create awareness. Paul's doing a great job helping this go forward. Very much thankful.
Jordan, I find the exact same thing. People are typically on the edge of their seats when I'm talking about these gentle bees. Although one on one is best, I'm only one mouth in one location and am attempting to reach most gardeners in the world.
I'm headed down the "social media" path right now. Tweeting more often, trying to increase Facebook presence, etc. My want is to get more action rather than words of sympathy.
Burra, I have that very .pdf attatched to my website. I agree, it was well done. In discussion with Steve Buchman (co-author) he was pleased with the outcome. It's a great tool and received a lot of tweets when it came out.
Tel, a glass of wine does the same thing.
The message that we need to spread is that the honey bees need help. Sure, the scientists are working on solutions, but the ones that I collaborate with feel that we'll be seeing less in the orchards as the years progress. Thus, increasing our awareness and management of native bees is imparative to buffer the future need.
I'm trying to increase the use of solitary bees in the backyard. Gardeners think there are only 5 bees in the world: honey bees, bumble bees, all hornets, all wasps, and everything else. There are 4,000 species of everything else just in North America.
How do we help spread the word that there are more bees out there? Many (solitary) are gentle and don't sting. This forum is a good start, but I'm looking for suggestions on accellerating the knowledge. With the honey bees continuing to decline, native bees are a "Plan Bee" that we need to push.
I saw these booklets while attending a pollinator conference in DC a few years back. They are beautifully produced, but very general. When you flip between the various booklets you begin to see common "cut/paste" segments.
The information of what bee lives in what state is out there. Somewhere. I'm going to be reaching out to the state extension services in the next year to find specific lists of which bee is in which state... and will look to provide information on how best to raise the more common and "useful" bees. Useful, meaning that the bee is easy to manage and has specific purposeful pollination capabilities for human planted crops.
It depends on what you're trying to do with these bees. The bees naturally live in the wild, so having a bunch of holes is perfectly fine to let them do their thing.
If you are raising cattle, do you let your cows roam in the fields with no fencing, no caring if they're sick, or provide no support? The same occurs with bees IF you're trying to manage them for a function.
To increase their numbers, a bit of management is important. Pest control is important. You can do this through harvesting in January.
If you're raising the bee where it naturally lives, then keep it outside. If you're managing it where it doesn't exist naturally, then yes, you'll want to control the environment for best development. If you don't want to do this, find another bee that is native to your area and rear that.
You'll find a bit of information on how best to raise these on www.crownbees.com (I'm the site owner)
I'm up for the challenge, though we both have to realize that few commercial orchards/crops are ready for permaculture. When one has thousands of hectares of apples, it is tough to change practices unless forced upon you. (lack of honey bees for example.)
Small education. In the bee world, -30% are social and build hives in the air (honey bees, paper wasps, etc.) -40% are ground dwellers and are social or solitary (bumble bees, miner bees) -30% are cavity nesters and typically solitary (blue orchard, rufas, cornifrons, aglaia)
A cavity nester uses their hole for nesting. They gather pollen, lay an egg, and then seal this egg chamber with mud/resin/leafs/masticated vegetation/pebbles. The bee lives about 4-6 weeks before the season for this species to be complete. The egg hatches, the larva eats the pollen, spins a cocoon and metamorphosus into an adult bee. The bee then emerges from that hole in time for the next season. ...in other words, each hole is used for an entire year-long life cycle.
The mason bees that I'm using/encouraging are the Blue Orchard & Hornfaced that use 8mm holes plus or minus. Another species that i'm encouraging for berries is Osmia aglaia that uses 5-6mm holes. I haven't progressed enough to know quite yet which bee lives where and what their requirements are yet elsewhere in North America.
Your questions answered: What is the long term result if you put in many different sizes of material ? different sizes will attract different species at different times of the year. ...if they are available.
Is there a sequence of nesting insects, like a crop rotation ? Each location/region is different, but yes, we have orchard/berry/melon season bees of various species. Around the pacific northwest in the US, the spring bee is the blue orchard, followed by the aglaia, followed by "I don't know yet" for the melon (July/August) season.
Can a straw be "cleaned" for a bee by another insect ? No. each bee has their own unique scent which the others ignore. Each hole is used by one species for the entire year.
What if you dispersed small(er) hotels on the acreage you've got ? Would that relieve the pressure ? In a monoculter, or even 3-4 crop policulture, we are dispersing the shelters to a variable 20m spacing. depending on the crop, we have maybe 100 nesting females per shelter. In a natural environment, you might have 2-3 females/shelter, if that. Realize that we have just 2-3 weeks of blossoms for this crop. With thousands of trees, we need a mass of bees available all at one time. When the crop is complete, this monoculture is a sahara desert to other native insects unless we encourage the farmer to plant/maintain hedges or between row plants. At a cost in both labor and material to the farmer. The honey bee is wonderful because the farmer just calls for bees to be dropped off and then picked up later. With cavity nesters like the blue orchard mason bee, we can pick up the straw with the eggs in it and take them off site so that other predators (parasitic wasps, woodpeckers, bears, etc.) can't forage on the bees.
Would you be finding different species in different areas, with different neighbours and pests ? in an organic farm, potentially yes. In a monoculture environment, few other species. But yes, each species will have their own pests/diseases/virus that they're susceptable to. Some pests/virus/diseases prey on multiple species. though in general, the varoa mite doesn't impact the blue orchard as an example.
Is there a hedge/compost heap/dry stone wall/brush pile equivalent for those bees - a large structure you can just set up to create a permanent environment ? this was a good Paul debate we had while sitting in my living room... Monoculture is a practice that right or wrong, is the major practice across the world. I know that in the UK, hedge rows are being forced(?) upon farmers as a good practice. In north america, it will be like extremely tough to force/encourage. Each farmer has only one set of equipment, ladders, sprayers, that they use. For them to try to be competitive on their product, this is must. It doesn't make it right, but in the free market society, it makes sense that it is what it is. for a farmer to pull back 10-25% of their field to encourage native pollinators is a tough sell. This land, in many situations, would be bare unless the farmer used energy to water it. ...and as I type this, I know from Paul that there are better methods. But limited farmer knowledge.
I don't mean to create obstacles with all of the above argument. Rather, I am dealing with the food supply across north america with all sorts of farming practices. This is reality, right or wrong. It is this practice that for now, I have to work with. If there are better methods of farming that permaculture can demonstrate, that must come from others... I can't educate the world. For now, my focus is obtaining alternate means of pollination.
John Polk... perhaps "stewardship" is a better word than "ownership." In either case, if I alter nature's natural cycle by proving food/lodging, i should continue to support them if I benefit from their presence.
you pose a great argument that I've had many good conversations on.
a) we need as many bees as possible to ensure that our orchards/crops achieve pollination (and we have diverse food)
b) let nature do it's own thing. Nature will figure it out.
If you are a sheep herder, your flock will, by nature of being larger than normally allowed by nature, attract predators. Diseases will also concentrate and spread between the sheep. Your choices are to let the predators/diseases have their take and leave the strongest, or look to protect them. If your purpose is to use the sheep for benefiting humans, (money, food, clothing) then you'll do all you can to defend/keep healthy your sheep.
Bees: If you're supplying holes for bees to use, you've already upset nature's balance. Let the bees find natural holes to use. If you choose to supply holes, at that point, you now have a bit of ownership. ...an abnormal number of holes attracts bees and pests. Nature WILL win out. Those holes that you supplied will, over a period of 2-3 seasons, be overrun by pests and the holes will become bee cemeteries.
I'm looking to supply an alternative to honey bees. Will we accellerate bad pests that will kill off this insect? Hopefully not, but I can't say that with certainty. I can say that if we don't do anything, within this decade, we will probably find ourselves short of total pollination in our orchards/crops. Who cares? I do. And I'm trying to help as many people understand this message: find out what's local around you, raise it, understand it, team with my company (http://www.crownbees.com) or other concerned people and get that bee into commercial use as fast as possible.
thanks for asking the questions hügel. I know there may be better solutions in the world, but for now, this is one step that I'm able to actively take. Not just "talk", but "talk AND walk".
That was my first significant read about 3 years ago. This book answered many early questions. I've been trying to help accellerate the learning of this bee. A group of scientists, pollinators, orchard owners, and mason bee raisers met last December in Modesto to create a professional organization called Orchard Bee Association.
Since we've formed, we have several teams looking into standards, methodology to raise them, developing the charter to the group, and means of sharing/exchanging ideas with the bee.
As new "technology" becomes available, I'l be modifying my website to pass these "tid-bits" along.
Gerald Bodily, a California physics teacher turned pollinator, has written a good book that explores many nuances beyond Bosche & Kemp's book. (I have this on my website). He's writing a few more shorter books this summer. Most books written today are directed towards the backyard gardener learning about a cute insect. I'm looking to help the orchardist/farmer out.
However, we're only talking about the BOB (Blue Orchard Bee) because of the almond industry's acceptance of it as an "or equal" to the honey bee. What lives around you that is later in the summer for the berry or melon season? Who will help identify it and more importantly, partner with me to help others raise it, manage it, and get it into commercial fields? I suggest these people will slowly emerge. I am reaching out to state extension service scientists as the need arises.
the trays are a bit tricky to put together correctly. We have a friend mill the boards so that they line up nicely. 5/16" holes plus or minus is what you're looking for. Depth, about 6". Make sure that you have plenty of overhang (about 3") so that the boards stay dry. You want to strap the boards together snugly to prevent pollen mites from taking over everything.
or build some straws from parchment paper around a pencil... that's fairly cheap as well!
I'm glad to see all of the interest in raising mason bees. It's vital in light of the current honeybee challenge north america faces today.
For an extensive, yet easy to navigate website on mason bees, go to http://www.crownbees.com. The site is primarily an education and instructional site that helps the backyard and commercial orchards succeed with using the spring mason bee. (Blue Orchard bee)
There is only one native bee that makes honey; the bumblebee. The honeybee is imported from Europe.
Thanks Joel. Help me track down like minded people in your local CA network. My intent is to make this a rewarding venture for anyone associated raising native insects to offset the honeybee decline.
A couple of things are needed. These people: - would need to be self motivated to make a difference - might have to reach out to garden communities/clubs for help raising bees - are in it for the long haul. This will be fun and rewarding, but it's not just a passing fad.
If you know of anyone, have them track me down through my website crownbees.com
I hope that soliciting help to "do" things is within the realms of permaculture's guidelines.
I truly appreciate the thoughts and comments that have gone on in this forum. You have the right idea and correct stance... we need to do something with native insects.
Here's a picture of a vision that my company is taking on.
Honeybees aren't doing well. I hope this truly turns around, but overbred critters tend to have multiple issues.
I have started a grassroots campaign to raise mason bees in the Pacific NW with about 600 gardeners. These mason bees will be sold to local pollinators and/or orchards when numbers get large enough... probably 2 years from now.
I will be starting similar operations in Oregon, Northern CA, Idaho, etc soon. Other native insects will follow.
I'm the owner of a new company found at crownbees.com. Not that i'm pitching any product being sold there, but rather, i'm trying to find like-spirited people to spread the word that native insects are a viable solution. My website has multiple experts brought together to have things as easy as possible for gardeners/orchard managers to try themselves.
We need to consider the use of native insects rather than place all of our bets on the honeybee...