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Podcast 021 - Keen on Mason Bees With Dave Hunter

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Location: Kingston, Canada (USDA zone 5a)
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Credit: Lorenzo Costa

Paul speaks with Dave Hunter, the man keen on bees, about mason bees and the great difference between them and honeybees and how much we don’t know about the bee world.

Paul starts by speaking with Dave about the problems that have kept on growing with honeybees, like the colony collapse disorder , CCD, and the fact entire hives are dying, we have a big problem with pollination, and it seems there’s nothing to do.Paul speaks about the video on CCD that he shot with Jacqueline Freeman, and how permaculture, with polycultures, a different use of water and the use of no pesticides can resolve the problem of continuous hive loss. Applying permaculture we can help the hive to thrive and have greater pollination.

Dave goes into how the problem is not about the problem is about the honey bees in general. We can’t see it only on the honey side but have to think about the pollination. This where we get introduced by Paul to Dave’s Dave's plan: how to save pollination and our food diversity.

Dave shows us how very little we know about the species of bees that exist, usually one can list 5 species of bees: honeybees, wasps, hornets, bumble bees, and the fifth group is the rest as unnamed bees, the fact is the rest is represented by 4000 species.

The solitary bee is one of the fifth group many of us ignore. The spring mason bee, or blue orchard bee, just to name one of the 125 different mason bees, is an exceptional insect. Every female is a queen, so every female lays eggs, their flying life lasts 4 to 6 weeks like honeybee’s, and they use multiple materials to build their nests. They have different flying periods, the blue orchard or spring mason bee is one of the first then you go on with different species until fall, so this means mason bees can pollinate for a long period.

Dave explains how they build their nests and how many eggs a female can lay. If one start’s with a hundred bee’s the next year one can have three hundred. The plan B Dave works on is a ten year long project that is focused on multiplying the people across the U.S. that raise mason bees. The commercial orchards could be pollinated by the solitary mason bees raised in the suburbia backyards in ten years. The numbers grow slowly but are constant. The solitary bee has less problems with parasites, even though there are specific mites for mason bees, but their lower concentration, there’s no hive, makes it less probable to have a complete loss.

The numbers are important and Dave is really precise on these. 600 mason bees can do the pollination of 240,000 honeybees per acre! So Paul asks Dave are we saying we have to speak of honeybees or mason bees or can we assume it would be better to think in terms of honeybees and mason bees. Dave’s answer is: and, we have to have both.

The mason bee is a big opportunity to learn more on pollination, to learn more on the native species of solitary bees we have in the states, and even to make a living raising them in the near future. Dave explains how it is simple to give the mason bee it’s habitat to build her nest. He likes wooden tray’s with straw of different diameters where they build their nests, he dislikes wooden blocks where you can’t examine the presence of mites and hates plastic.

Paul is convinced and admits he thought he had some knowledge on bees before speaking with Dave, and certainly there is a lot to learn. Dave explains that his site www.crownbees.com has to be seen not so much as a company’s commercial site, of course he sells things there, but mostly as an educational tool, he wants to help people be successful and make their numbers of mason bees grow year after year. He shows how you house the mason bees, what solutions have been found.

One question at the end of this podcast Paul has to ask is are the mason bees aggressive? And Dave’s answer is clear: no, not really. Ok you caught all of us we’re on board.

Related Threads

Mason Bee Extraction
Insect Hotels
Mason Bees Love Black Locust
Growing Reed Tubes


Mason Bees for the Backyard Gardener by Sherian A. Wright

Managing Blue Orchard Bees for Pollinating Almonds in Fresno County, CA

Relevant Links

Dave Hunter's Website

Colony Collapse Disorder Video

Colony Collapse Disorder Thread at Permies

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