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Saturday, May 14, 2011

Mason bee nest, Roscoe

As most gardeners are aware, there is a crisis in the European honey bee population in this country. Whether it is a fungus, a disease or some other factor, hives suddenly crash and disappear. We brought these bees from Europe when we emigrated, to be our prime pollinators and honey providers.

The lack of a vibrant honey bee population causes problems in vegetable gardens here. One solution is to try to attract native pollinators. One of these is the Mason bee. These are vigorous pollinators, but they need nesting places. These nests are sold by a great place called Gardener's Supply in Vermont. They are tubes of bamboo in a bamboo sheath.

The female lays a female egg in the back of the tube and cements it over (thus the moniker mason bee). Then she lays another, and cements again. She can get 5 or 6 in a tube. The last cavity has a male egg in it. The male hatches in due time and waits. As each female emerges, they mate. And then it starts again. I had two of these last year and they were 3/4 full by Fall. Now I have 4 nests near my garden and I have way more fruit sets than a year ago.

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