Orchard Mason Bees
Become a beekeeper with Mason Bees and have the best native pollinator around. All you have to do is just release the Mason Bees directly from our provided box when your fruit trees begin to bloom each year. Our Mason Bee box comes with 20 or 100 of these amazing bees. Choose 20 (will pollinate 4-5 fruit trees) or save more money and go big with a box of 100 bees. Our Mason bees are the fattest and most vigorous bees we could source.
Please note, these bees are shipped dormant in their cocoons. We recommend always opening the box outside as they are live bees and may wake up during transit in warmer weather. If you receive the bees before the ideal time to release them in your area, it is best to store them in the refrigerator until they are ready to be released.
Orchard Mason Bees Pollinators
We are excited to offer these work horses of fruit tree pollination. Expect higher fruit set and larger yields. These bees will find places to live close to where they are released. If you purchase the Mason Bee Board with your bees you can farm your own bees and increase them each year. Mason bees are a common name for species of bees in the genus Osmia, of the family Megachilidae. They are named from their habit of making compartments of mud in their nests, which are made in hollow reeds or holes in wood made by wood-boring insects.
Unlike honey bees (Apis) or bumblebees, Osmia species are solitary; every female is fertile and makes her own nest, and no worker bees for these species exist. Solitary bees produce neither honey nor beeswax. They are immune from acarine and Varroa mites, but have their own unique parasites, pests, and diseases.
The orchard mason bee emerges early in the spring when daytime temperatures rise to about 50 degrees consistently. This usually coincides with fruit tree bloom. The males emerge first and stay close to the nest site waiting for females.
When the females do emerge, the first thing they do is look for a mate. Soon after the males die and the females start work on their nests for the year. They begin by finding a suitable hole, and then start to gather pollen and nectar from nearby flowers as food for their young.
The pollen is deposited into the back of the nest hole one load at a time. This is done until a suitable store is gathered. Then, the bee lays an egg on top of the mass.
Orchard mason bees are amazing pollinators. Unlike honey bees that have leg pockets for pollen storage, a mason bee must stuff pollen into stiff hairs on her abdomen. This less sophisticated method leads to much better pollination because on each flower she tries to stuff pollen into the hairs, but some inevitably falls out, likely pollinating the flower.
While a honey bee typically pollinates about 5% of the flowers it visits in a day, it is estimated that a mason bee pollinates 95%. And on top of that the mason bee visits more than twice as many flowers every day!
The nesting habits of many Osmia lend themselves to easy cultivation, and a number of Osmia are commercially propagated in different parts of the world to improve pollination in fruit and nut production. Commercial pollinators include O. lignaria, O. rufa, O. cornuta, O. cornifrons, O. ribiflorus, and O. californica. They are used both as an alternative to and as an augmentation for European honey bees. Mason bees grown for orchard and other agricultural applications are all readily attracted to nesting holes – reeds, paper tubes, nesting trays, or drilled blocks of wood; in their dormant season they can be transported as intact nests (tubes, blocks, etc.), or as loose cocoons. As is characteristic of solitary bees, they rarely sting when handled, (only under duress such as when wet or squeezed), their sting is smaller and less painful, and their stinger is unbarbed, all attributes cited by different commercial growers.
Mason Bee Supplies
Read our full Mason Bee Care Guide here.