We know it can be very disappointing when your mason bees don’t fill many holes, but the success of our program starts as soon as you release solitary bees back out into the environment. Since solitary bees are such incredible pollinators, when you released them into your yard you help create a healthier ecosystem by strengthening your trees and flowers that will provide cleaner air, stabilize soils and support other wildlife. You’ve also helped grow the local population of solitary bees, which are commonly eliminated or reduced from urban areas as they are being developed.
- When did you get your bees? Climate and weather is the #1 factor in bee success and unfortunately that is out of our control and some springs are just better than others. The timing of your release is based on temperature and food. We typically find that later in spring is better timing because spring settles in and won’t surprise bees with cold and wet weather.
- Did they go out right away or did you stick them in the fridge? If fridge, how long were they in fridge and did you check for emergence while they were in there? Before you put your tube in the fridge, open the tube and make sure bees didn’t emerge during transit. If one or two did, that is ok, but if more than you’ll want to put them outside.
- Do you see any scent marks on the white tube? They look like mud marks, those are the male scent marks. If you see them, that means your boy bees emerged. Girls come out about a week later and search for the boys to fertilize their eggs. Once eggs are fertilized they’ll start nesting. While searching for food and the boys, they may discover other nesting sites in your yard. Like a deck umbrella or other natural holes in your habitat.
- Are you or your neighbors using any pesticides or sprays? Any sprays or chemicals will harm sensitive pollinators and the developing babies next to pollen from flowers or soil for their mud caps inside the nesting chambers.
- Is there a clay source? If not, they’ll fly off to find sticky/muddy clay for their babies
- Is there a food source? If your bees emerged and there was no food, they’ll fly off in search for food and may not return to your block.
- Was there a lot of rain after you put them out? Mason bees are hardy bees and can fly in drizzle or light rain, but heavy rain they’ll seek shelter and not be able to fly. This may throw them off and they may not find their way back to your nesting block and instead find natural holes in your habitat.
- Was there daytime freezing or snow after they emerged? If so, how many days? Did it damage the blooms? (They can survive just fine in cooler temps at night, just the daytime temps need to be 50+ degrees).
- Was your black bee house placed in the morning sun? This is one thing you can try and do differently next year if no bees returned to your block. You can’t move the house and block once bees are released, but the following season try moving your house to a different location. You may find better success. Some hosts get two kits and spread out over their yards.
Now let’s investigate the contents of your PVC tube where all the cocoons are. On a paper towel or piece of paper, dump out all the contents and examine the cocoons. If they all have a hole in it, then they emerged. If not, set the ones aside that haven’t opened and you can snip the tip off the cocoon to examine them. Here is a video showing you how:
IF ALL YOUR COCOONS ARE EMPTY, THAT IS GREAT NEWS! IT MEANS ALL YOUR BEES EMERGED AND ARE IN YOUR YARD POLLINATING. THEY JUST FOUND OTHER HOLES IN THEIR HABITAT TO LAY THEIR BABIES.
If your black house was hung in warm morning sun, you had mud nearby, food as soon as they emerged and didn’t use pesticides or sprays, then you did nothing wrong. We know it’s fun to watch them fill holes, but you must have a great habitat where they found natural holes. We’ve been seeing reports from hosts that old pipes, holes in leaf blowers, outdoor electrical outlets, deck umbrella’s, house siding and wicker tables have all been spotted with mason bees and mud plugs. SILLY BEES!
If you’ve determined by answering the questions above that it is not weather related, then something you can try next year is moving the location of your black house. Sometimes a different spot is closer to a food source and they prefer it better. Other times, it’s just a matter of preference and we never know year to year what mason bees will prefer.
IF YOU NO LONGER SEE ANY BEE ACTIVITY, YOU CAN REMOVE YOUR MASON BEE NESTING BLOCK AND STORE IN YOUR SHIPPING BOX. DO NOT MAIL BACK UNTIL SEPTEMBER ONCE COCOONS HAVE BEEN MADE AND THEY’RE SAFE TO SHIP.
THANK YOU FOR SUPPORTING SOLITARY POLLINATORS!!