Well, we were probably a bit optimistic in putting the mason bees out on Easter weekend this year. Although the buds on the apple trees were swelling nicely at the time, the following 3 weeks of cold, dreary weather did little to advance the blossoms! Fortunately, the quince and dandelion kept our bees busy until the apple blossom appeared. Then we were able to see quite a variety of bees at work, during the few short, sunny hours that we've had. Our mason bees occupied 3 houses stationed around Cottage 20 and have so far filled 9 cells with eggs. That means a possible 'harvest' of over 50 mason bees to work for us next year!
We noticed that, just after their release, the mason bees were very active: watching one house for only 5 minutes, we could observe at least 3 trips into the house to lay eggs. The male bees were easily spotted sunning themselves on the porch, waiting for the ladies to bring home the pollen. On cold rainy days, the adults shelter in empty cells in the bee house, poking their heads out periodically to check the weather.
By the time the apples bloomed, activity was much slower and we think some of our bees may have left in search of earlier blooming orchards. Still, at least one or two females continued to lay and found the new houses we put up when the first one was nearly filled.
Lesson learned: wait. Wait more. They hatch pretty quickly if there is sun--ours were off to work within 3 days of being placed in a box tied to the bee house. Some hatch faster than others, so we're making new bee houses with permanent "emerging rooms": a part of the house in which the bees can be placed so that they remain dry and protected while they warm up and emerge from the cocoon. The emerging room has a small hole to allow the bees to get out when they're ready to go to work. We think this type of house will work better than tying a box of cocoons to the small bee houses we made last year--not so subject to wind, rain and predators.
We will move the bee houses to a sheltered location in about 2 weeks, after all activity has stopped, so as to prevent predators from disrupting the nests. We'll keep them warm and dry until the end of the summer, making sure they are not disturbed while the larval bees are developing. Then, in October at our Applefest, we'll open the houses and inspect the cocoons for signs of parasites, transfer them to cold storage containers and keep them cool until next spring. Over the winter, we'll clean the houses and re-line each cell with fresh parchment paper liners, ready for a new
The buds are swelling on the apple trees in Davies Orchard and a few days of sun are all that's needed for them to burst into bloom. It's time to put up your mason bee house and, if you have bees, place them in a box with a hole cut into it, sheltered from the rain and as close as possible to the bee house.
Be sure to place the house on a south wall or in your sunniest location, about 3-6' off the ground. Check to see that birds can't perch close enough to get at the nest holes. Provide a small amount of clay and water for the bees to use to plug the nest holes.
Watch your house daily as the fruit tree season progresses: the larger, blue female bees will be hard at work laying eggs, making a mix of pollen and nectar to feed the larvae, and plugging up the holes when they're done. The smaller, male bees will be hanging about the house, waiting for their women folk.
Another tip: don't cut the dandelions! Did you know that the humble dandelion contains a protein that is vital for healthy bees? Mason bees also like lilac, laburnum, willow, quince, delphinium and phacelia. Add any of these to your garden to attract the wild mason bees and provide them with a balanced diet!
Heritage Week February 21 -27, 2011: The theme is Parks, appropriately enough, and Bowen Heritage will be hosting an Open House in Davies Orchard on Sunday, February 23 from 2 to 4 pm to discuss the impending National Park proposal. Cottage 20, Davies Orchard Lane.
Bowen Heritage supports the idea of creating a National Park on Bowen for 3 main reasons:
1. The unique environment and amenities of the Island are ours to protect--the Islands Trust Act makes it clear that this is our duty, as a community. This is the heritage we leave to future generations. Bowen's Crown Lands are not currently protected and they comprise about 40% of the Island. The mandate of Parks Canada places ecological integrity first among its management principles and provides the best hope of preserving--even restoring--the natural environment.
2. Most of the Island's watersheds originate in the Crown Lands. Nature currently treats our drinking water and provides the lifeblood of our forests. It is essential that we protect our water, for ourselves and future generations. Imagine the cost of building treatment and distributions systems for all the scattered settlement of this Island--that would be the true cost of any development within our watersheds.
3. Parks Canada's management plan for the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve includes the preservation of cultural heritage resources. We are fortunate to have the Orchard and Seaside cottages and the Old General Store to remind us of Bowen's past as 'Vancouver's Playground'. Parks Canada, unlike our current park management at Metro Vancouver, does allow an organization such as ours to apply for the kind of long-term licence that we need to raise funds to complete the Davies Orchard Restoration Project.
Join us on February 23 to share your views on the Park.