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Learning Center


What is a solitary bee?

Unlike the social honey bees, solitary bees do not have a queen, do not live in a hive and do not produce honey. Without the need to protect a queen and honey, solitary bees are gentle, friendly and non-aggressive. Each female must find or create her own nest, and collect all of the food needed to feed herself and her eggs. Your kids and pets will be safe in the company of solitary bees!

What is a mason bee?

Mason bees are solitary bees that fly during the spring time. We work with two types of mason bees: Blue Orchard Mason Bee (Western U.S.) and the Horn-Faced Bee (Midwestern & Eastern U.S.). Mason bees emerge in April and and pollinate plants that bloom in the spring such as fruit trees, some berry bushes, and many of our native plants. Instead of living in a hive, they use small cavities such as woodpecker holes, tree stumps, and rockeries to lay their eggs in.

What are the benefits of renting bees?

Mason bees are one of the easiest bees to host, but you do need to take care of your bees in the fall. If you don’t harvest the cocoons and clean the nesting block you are not protecting your bees from evasive predators such as pollen mites and Houdini flies, which lay their eggs on the mason bee pollen inside your holes. When you rent from us, you don’t have to worry about any of this. You send your nesting block back to us and we do it all for you. During our mason bee harvest we clean millions of mason bee cocoons and sterilize their nesting blocks to eliminate predators. Which means the bees you rent from us are predator free, strong and healthy and your nesting block is clean and ready to start using. In addition to healthy bees, all our bee houses and nesting blocks are made in our wood workshop. We make thousands of bee homes for backyard gardeners to decorate and pollinate your yard. All our nesting blocks are made with holes of a precise size to support laying eggs and keep their babies safe. We also place a cardboard backing on the back of their nesting block to keep out predators and create a dark tunnel for bees to lay their eggs. Click here to see our video on how we clean predators off of mason bees

Do they sting?

You don’t have to worry about getting stung! Mason bees are extremely docile bees. All the females are fertile, which means there is no queen bee for the other bees to protect. They will happily go about their day visiting flowers and carrying mud to the nesting block and not be bothered or aggravated by your presence. You can easily stand in front of the bee house and watch them fly in and out without having to worry about getting stung. Recent experiments out of the USDA Bee Lab have shown that mason bee bodies do not contain any venom which is unlike honey bees or wasps. This means that even if they were to sting you (which might only happen if you were to pinch them or otherwise try to kill them) it would feel more like a mosquito bite than a sting.

How do I identify a mason bee?

Mason bees do not look like a typical “bee.” They are small black/blue metallic insects. The males have a small white dot on the front of their forehead. You can distinguish them from a fly by looking for their three-part body (head, thorax, and abdomen), two sets of wings (flies only have one set), two separate eyes, and segmented antennae.

Why are they called a mason bee?

Mason bees use mud to pack the holes where they lay their offspring. They go to the back of the hole in the nesting block and place a ball of pollen and nectar that we call “bee bread.” They lay their egg on top of the food source and then build a small mud wall, creating a small cell. They will repeat this process until they have reached the front of the hole, and then plug it with a ¼” of mud that they carry with their mouths. At the end of the springtime, in each hole of the nesting block there will be between 5-8 mason bee offspring behind a plug of mud. When you host mason bees in your yard, you will need to make sure that you mud hole stays wet throughout the season.

What is the lifecycle of a mason bee?

In the spring, male and female bees hatch out of their cocoons. The males hatch first, and scent mark the outside of the tube so they know where to return to find the females. After mating, the males have completed their lifecycle. The females then spend the rest of April and May collecting nectar and pollen, pollinating your yard, and laying their offspring in the nesting block.

By June, the adult mason bees you hatched in your yard have completed their lifecycle. Behind the mud plugs are mason bee eggs, which will develop from egg, to larva, to fully formed bees in cocoons by September. We bring them into our storage facility in June and store them at 78 F to protect them from predators and ensure high survival rates.

By September, the bees are now fully formed in cocoons. At that time, we will open the nesting blocks, clean the cocoons, sanitize the blocks, and store the bees in a walk-in cooler for the winter. This is their hibernation time, where their body systems slow and they remain dormant in cocoons until the following spring.

The following March, the bees come out of the cooler (or if the eggs were laid in nature will emerge from your backyard) and begin to fly around your yard. The next generation has now reached adulthood and will begin their lifecycle process all over again.

Do they make honey?

No, only honeybees make honey, unlike the other 600 kinds of bees that live in the Pacific Northwest. Mason bees are extremely efficient pollinators that are crucial to the health of our ecosystem. They are native to this area, so they are well-adapted to our climate. Mason bees will pollinate about 95% of all flowers that they land on, honey bees can only pollinate about 5%.

What other bees are in my backyard?

There are over 4000 different kinds of native bees in the United States, and we have at least 600 of them in Washington state. We have yet to identify all of the species of bees that exist. This list includes bumblebees, sweat bees, green bees, and carpenter bees among many others. Click here to read about some of the pollinators you might see in your backyard.

How long do mason bees live?

The lifecycle of a mason bee takes about 1 year. They begin as eggs in the spring, and develop from egg to larva to pupa to adult bee in a cocoon from June to September. Once in cocoon, they hibernate until temperatures reach around 58 degrees (typically the end of March/beginning of April). The males will fly for about 3 weeks and the females typically fly for 7-8 weeks. So even though we only see them flying around for a few months out of the year, a single mason bee lives for one year.


How do I know my garden can host mason bees?

​Hosting mason bees is very easy. You need to provide them with three things:

1. Sources of pollen and nectar during April and May within 300 feet from their nesting block. This could be fruit trees, flower beds, a yard of dandelions or a green belt. Remember, they won’t just stop on your property line, they will travel across the street and into your neighbors’ yards for food too.

2. A nesting block in the sun. We will give you the house to host your bees in, all you need to do is find a sunny spot in your yard to hang the house. To hang, use one nail or screw on the side of your house, fence, or a post in your garden. South facing is great, and you want to ensure that they will get morning sun.

3. A mud source. We have small bags of clay available if you want to supplement your sandy soil with some clay to make it easier for the bees to work with. Make sure you keep it wet throughout the spring.

How do I make a mud hole?


1. Dig a small hole (about a foot deep) somewhere in your yard. It does not need to be right next to where you hung your bee house. The bees will travel 300 feet in any direction from the box searching for pollen and mud.
2. Get the hole wet.
3. Get the clay wet. This can be in your hands or in a bowl. This part is a bit messy as the clay gets very sticky when its wet.
4. Line one side of the hole with the sticky clay about .5″ to 1″ thick. The clay does not need to go all the way around the hole. Mold it as if your a molding a clay bowl. The bees will go into the side of the hole to find mouthfuls of muddy clay.
5. Keep the hole wet throughout May. As temperatures dry out, fill the hole periodically with water when you go out to water your garden. This will keep the clay moist and enable the bees to use it to fill their nesting blocks to protect their developing offspring.


Dig a hole somewhere in your yard and keep the hole muddy through the season. If at the end of the season only a few holes are filled, consider buying a bag of clay next year to supplement your soil. The bees will thank you!

How far will mason bees travel?

About a football field in any direction (300 feet or 100 yards) from where you hang the box. That means that when you hang the kit, it doesn’t necessary need to be right next to your apple trees or your mud hole. The bees will seek out foraging resources so it is most important to hang the box in a sunny spot.

What do I do with the white tube?

When we mail you your kit, we will give you a PVC pipe with two caps on each end. That is where your mason bees start out in while they are still in cocoon. When you get home and mount your kit, take off the tape that is on one of the caps. The mason bees will chew their way out of the cocoons and fly out of the drilled hole. Once the males have hatched, they will begin to scent mark the outside of the tube to know where to come back to find the females. You can leave the tube in the house for the entire season and bring it back to us when you return your bees. If it falls out later in the season, that is OK, the bees will have already emerged and what is left are empty shells. If it does not want to stay put in your house, use some crumpled newspaper around it to wedge it in place.

What are the brown markings on the white tube/house?

Those are scent marks left by the emerging male bees. Male mason bees will hatch a few days to a few weeks earlier than the female mason bees. As soon as they hatch, they will scent mark their surroundings with a pheromone marker so that they will know where to return to find the females. You will periodically see them reenter the white tube looking for hatched females.

Can mason bees live around other bees/wasps?

Absolutely! Of the over 600 different kinds of bees that live in Washington state, each bee depending on size, shape, behavior, and emergence times fall into their own ecological niche. This allows different kinds of bees to forage on different resources and nest in different places so that they can co-habitat in the same places. That means you can host mason bees in your yard and not have to worry about them taking resources away from other bees or vice versa. When planning your garden, it is a good idea to plant a diverse combination of plants to support different kinds of native bees. Click here for ideas on how to select plants for pollinators.


Where/how do I hang the house?

For both mason bees and leafcutter bees, it is important that you hang the bee house in the sunniest spot in your yard. South-facing is ideal as you want to ensure the bees get morning sun and as much sun throughout the day. The bees will travel about a football field (300 feet) in any direction from where you hang the house, so they do not necessarily need to hung directly next to your garden or fruit trees. The houses come with a metal hook on the back so all you need is one nail or screw to hang your house. It will have a slight natural angle down to ensure that rain will not accumulate at the back of the house as it is essential that the nesting block stays dry.

Can I move my house during the season?

Do not move the house once your bees have begun to emerge. Once the male mason bees have begun to hatch, they will scent mark the outside of the white tube and the nesting block. It is important that you do not move the house because they will be disoriented and not be able to find their way back to the female mason bees. Each year hosting mason bees is an experiment to find the best location for the house so take note of where you hung the house and make adjustments the following year.

Are they safe?

Yes! Mason bees are solitary bees which means they do not have a queen to protect so they have no reason to sting you. Kids love watching these bees work in the nesting block and mason bees are a great teaching tool to for children to learn about the importance of pollinators and their role in our agricultural system.

Where do the mason bees go when I return them?

When you return your mason bee kit to us, you are sending us the next generation of mason bees. Behind each mud plug, there is anywhere from 5-10 developing mason bees. In June, they are eggs on top of a pollen/nectar food source. They will then go from egg, to larva, to pupa, to an adult bee in a cocoon by September. The bees that you raised in your yard will then be cleaned and overwintered, and then end up either in someone else’s backyard next year, or on one of the farms we work with to pollinate fruit that will end up in your grocery stores. The bees that you hatched out will have completed their lifecycle by June, laying some of their eggs in the nesting block, and some in your backyard to repopulate the local mason bee population in your neighborhood.


Can I buy bees?

Yes, there are options to purchase mason bees. We believe in our rental process because there is high potential for spreading disease among native bees when they are not properly taken care of throughout the year. Besides providing nesting and food sources during their flying time, it is crucial to clean the cocoons and store them in your refrigerator over the winter in order to not encourage parasitic populations of pollen mites and mono wasp, both of which cause threats to the development of the mason bee. We have the equipment necessary to carry out this process. It is absolutely possible for those who want the experience of cleaning and storing native mason bees to be successful bee farmers, but we also want to provide an opportunity for many people to support and raise mason bees without having to commit year-round.

How does the rental program work?

Rent Mason Bees is the largest supplier of solitary bees in the United States and the only company that brings together gardeners and farmers to make more food and help solitary bee populations. Our bee rental program works by finding hosts who will hang up a mason bee house in their yards and gardens. Mason bees are exceptional pollinators, so spring-blooming plants in your yard will flourish.

In the fall when the developing bees have built their protective cocoons, you mail your nesting blocks back to Rent Mason Bees. Our team then eliminates all the predators by cleaning each mason bee cocoon and sterilizing all the nesting blocks. We then safely store them in hibernation over winter.

The next spring, healthy mason bee cocoons are sent to farmers to pollinate crops such as apple, blueberry, pear, cherry and almond. We send over 95% of our bees to farmers across the United States to help them pollinate and grow more food. The remaining 5% of our bees are used in our backyard hosting program. The results are: your garden gets pollinated, healthy bees are put back into the ecosystem and you help farmers produce more food.


Do mason bees have any predators?

Yes, there are several other species that can pose threats to the survival of the mason bee. This is why we bring our bees into a temperature controlled room during the summer and a walk-in refrigerator during the winter so that we can control pest population and ensure high survival rates of our bees.
The monodontomerus wasp, or mono wasp, is a parasitic wasp that can be extremely detrimental to mason bee populations. The mono wasp will insert its ovipositor into the mason bee nests and lay its eggs on the mason bee larvae. Once the young wasps hatch, they will eat the developing mason bees inside of their cocoons.
Pollen mites also pose threats to developing bees. When blocks are not cleaned, adult mason bees will carry pollen mites from their surroundings into their nesting cavities. Normally adult bees will knock off most of the mites but there is a section on their thorax behind their head that they cannot reach. Those mites will fall off onto the developing mason bees and consume their food source. If the mason bee egg has no food to consume, it will not survive. To ensure these predators are not spread into local bee populations, we sanitize all of our nesting blocks and clean all of the cocoons. We also try to provide education to the community about why it is important to maintain clean responsible practices when it comes to raising bees.

It looks like all of my bees flew away, what do I do?

If you are seeing brown markings on the white tube, that means that the male mason bees have hatched. Sometimes it can take up to 2 weeks after the males hatch for the females to hatch. They then need to mate before the female bees will start to use the nesting block to lay their eggs.

It could be that you do not have adequate mud for the females to use and they left in search of a better mud source. If your soil too sandy or does not remain wet throughout the spring this may be the case. We offer bags of clay to supplement your sandy soil which can sometimes greatly increase your success with hosting bees. You will also want to make sure that the house in hung in full sun, as sometimes the bees will look elsewhere for warmer nesting sites, such as the shingles of your house or in a rockery (don’t worry they don’t do any damage to your property, they only find preexisting holes).

If the mason bees have chosen to not use the nesting block, that is OK as they have found places to lay their eggs in your yard, which will boost the local population of these native bees.

What happens if I don't return my bees?

Due to various predators, it is essential that the bees are returned in September. When you rent bees, you are agreeing to return the nesting block back to us so we can clean them.

We are able to offer our bees at a discounted price because we are able to grow more bees to work with more farms. If you do not return your bees within the 30 day return window, your credit card will be charged the full retail value of the bee kit ($150). We do not want to do this, but when the bees are not returned, their health is jeopardized and we loose bees.

I already have a bee house in my backyard but I don’t know if there are bees in it, what do I do?

We recommend getting rid of any bee houses that have been in your backyard for more than a season without being cleaned. If you have a drilled block that does not come apart, and you see mud plugs in it the following is what we recommend to do:

Take the house down and place it in a covered area (under a porch awning for example) with the holes facing up

Place ¼” – ½” of sawdust over the holes

When the bees hatch out, the sawdust will fall in the holes, allowing the adult bees to hatch but not go back into the dirty holes to lay eggs

Provide with a new, clean house nearby for nesting

Alternatively, if you do not have access to sawdust, in the springtime you can place the old house in a sealed cardboard box, holes up, with a small hole cut into the box. The bees will fly out towards the light, but will not return to nest in the old box.

To dispose, burn the block to prevent the spread of pests, or remove from your property.


Bee Amazed

Mason bees
visit up to
flowers a day
400 Mason bees
do the work of
honey bees
One Mason bee
block can hold
bees per acre
to pollinate their