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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Oliebollen for the old and New Year.

Here are the Oliebollen.  Very good indeed!

Wishing you all the best for the coming year!

Bringing in the New Year with Oliebollen

My Dutch neighbour Alie told me that she is going to make oliebollen. This is a Dutch tradition that I remember from my childhood.  It is a memorable way to say goodbye to the old and bring in the New Year.  Every year Alie invites me for a tasty treat of oliebollen, but I have never made them.  I am off to give her a hand and maybe taste a few morsels....

Web site news- Happy New Year!

Bonnie, my web guru and I figured out that we should and that we can have two categories of homes under mason bee homes.  This would be easier for folks. 

The two categories under Bee homes would be -Spring mason bee homes and Summer Mason bee homes.  Right now the different homes with their various nesting materials are grouped together.  This is a little overwhelming, I think. 

Spring nesting materials available on my web site are CORN Quicklock nesting trays, Ezy-harvest cardboard nesting tubes and Natural Phragmites Reeds.  We have two types of nesting material for the smaller summer mason bees.  Summer nesting materials available on are the wooden routered trays and corrugated cardboard.

I will be doing this over the next few days.  I hope you will like the changes.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Beediverse web site

I have been working on my Beediverse website and have some thoughts on organizing Beediverse products in a couple of additional categories.  Of course, there are always better ways of organizing items and of course writing about them. 

In the early days of Mason beekeeping as a gardener's hobby, it was important to have a product category for "Starting out " and "Learning about". 

Now Mason Bee keeping is at a different stage.  Gardeners who have the experience with spring mason bees, are keen to attract summer mason bees for exmple.

These categories could be expanded for example to explain the different nesting materials required for spring mason bees and summer mason bees.    A clear distinction between spring and summer mason bees is needed to make it easier for people to make a decision on what nesting material and or housing they need.  An explanation is needed that that Spring bees are larger and need larger nesting cavities and that summer mason bees are smaller and need smaller nesting tunnels.    This explanation plus placing spring and summer houses and spring and summer nesting material in different categories would be a good start.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Ground nesting bees in a local school ground

A neighbour of mine reminded me of the local ground nesting bees at her school.  Some pictures were taken and we should be able to get them identified.

Friday, December 23, 2011

New Item-Mason Bee Home Kit

I am continuously on the lookout for items that might be of interest to mason bee enthusiasts. 

We have just added  a Mason Bee Home kit to our line of Beediverse products.
The neat thing is that it assembles without nails or glue!  It includes instructions on how to roll your own paper nesting tubes.  This is an awesome product.  Another big advantage to this home is that it ships flat.  Savings in shipping is significant.

Kit- Mason Bee Home
This is the perfect item for people who like to put things together.  A great school project!

Once assembled, the Bee home can be set out on an east facing wall, in a sunny location and under an overhang.  It houses 40 mason bees and is ready to pollinate your fruit trees.

The kit includes pre-cut wooden bee box, mounting nails, sand paper, pre-cut Kraft paper for 40 bee tubes, dowel for rolling bee tubes, and tape for taping bee tubes.

This home is big enough to fit a Quicklock nesting tray with 30 holes and with room to spare for additional nesting tubes or a release shelter.
Instructions include how to assemble the bee home and how to roll your own bee nesting tubes.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Whistler- Christmas

We headed up to Whistler the other day.  An annual Christmas gathering of friends.  It was a lot of fun.  The drive along Howe sound, through Squamish and to Whistler is spectacular with the mountains in their winter coat.  Merry Christmas everyone!
On our way to Whistler, just out of Horshoe Bay

The road to Whistler goes along Howe Sound. 
The Tantalus Range is in the background

The spectacular scenery is accentuated with the curves in the road.

Mt Garibaldi above Squamish

A close up of the Tantalus Range in the setting sun

The last rays of sunlight on the Chief rock wall above Squamish.

A Christmas scene in Whistler


Friday, December 16, 2011

Six Inch Petri dishes and How to use them.

Six inch diameter petri dishes are very handy to have when keeping mason bees, especially when storing cocoons.  Winter storage of cocoons containing live bees can be problematic since you need humidity and air.  Petri dishes allow both air and humidity to pass under the lid and over the lip and into and out of the pretri dish.  Tiny strips keep the lid off the base and thus allowing air to pass.  All this means that living things can be stored in petri dishes.  Another good feature of a petri dish is that organisms can crawl around inside the petri dish, be safe and not escape.

About 100-200 mason bee cocoons can be stored in each petridish.  Petri dish are stackable and can occupy very little space. 
Here are a few ways to use  6" petridishes:
1.  Store cleaned cocoons inside a refrigerator that is a manual de-frost fridge)
2.  Each petri dish can be labelled according to location and other information.
3.  Store suspect cocoons-I call these DUDS!
When candling, cocoons that do not contain a bee can be set aside and left refrigerated until spring.  In spring, the petri dish is left on the counter.  If any bees emerge they can be released.
4.  Store unknown organisms until emergence
5.  Petri dishes are stackable and occupy very little space.
Stack of petri dishes with cocoons inside a manual defrost fridge.
A thermometer is an important tool to make sure the temperature
is right for keeping cocoons under hibernating conditions. 
In late Jan temperature is lowered to between 2-4C or 35-39F

Always keep a container of water inside the fridge. 
This is an easy way to make sure that humidity is above 60%.

Label each petri dish.

In a manual defrost fridge, there is a freezer compartment
that will require defrosting each year.

In spring, the occasional male will emerge even
though temperatures are low.

For spring emergence, cocoons can be placed into Starter
cottages or Emergence Cottages.  These can be temporarily
stored in the fridge, until weather conditions are reasonable.

Store cocoons inside Petri dishes that may contain parasitic wasps. 
Place on kitchen counter in spring.  If any bees emerge
 they can be released.  Parasitic wasps can be destroyed by freezing .

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Discovery of new Sweat Bee Species

Researcher discovers 11 new sweat bee species, four in New York City area
Alfonso emailed me today and let me know about this interesting research.  He adds-

"I bet if we really surveyed what we had, we could come up with some incredible results of what's really out there. Alfonso"

Click here for the full story

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Andrena colony update

Here is an update from researcher Mike

"We would very much appreciate if you could place a request on your blog. Coastal B.C. would be convenient, but we are willing to consider anything. We do have a colleague collecting stylopized Polistes in Eastern U.S.A.; that is where we found the large Colletes aggregation I referred to in my last email. Please don't hesitate to contact us if you think of anything."

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Researcher is looking for Andrena bee ground nesting colonies

This researcher would like assistance with locating a ground nesting colony of Andrena bees.  (Stylopized bees are parasitized bees).  If you have seen any ground nesting bees, please respond to this web.  Your help is greatly appreciated.  I think he would like the locations to be in the Vancouver region of BC. 

Check out the two links below for beautiful photos of various bee species and stylopized bees.

Hello Dr. Margriet Dogterom,
This year I embarked on an project involving the signalling in Strepsipteran parasites of Polistes wasps. Next spring we would like to expand our research to Andrena bees. Ideally, we need to locate large aggregations to provide a ready supply of stylopized bees. We found one large aggregation that turned out to be Colletes, and another that is not very accessible (It's on a city boulevard).

Ideally we need to locate colonies before emergence next spring, as the stylopized bees emerge first. Would you happen to know the whereabouts of any Andrena bee aggregations? 
Thank you,

Photos of stylopized bees

Photos of mason bees and other bees

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Inside the nest: cocoons inside 'cotton fluff"

There have been half a dozen reports of cotton fluff inside the nesting tunnels.  Here is one I found myself.  Most of the fluff is just that, but two cocoon type structures were found in the center row.  If someone knows what this is please let us know.
A nesting tray with 6 routered channels containing mason bee cocoons,
and cotton type fluff in two of the channels.  

Here I have lifted some of the fluff out to show how it neatly fits into the channel.

Two cocoons were found inside this fluffy material.
You can see the end cap directly above where the cocoon is held in the photo.
 The end cap is made of several layers of mud and is thicker than the usual mason bee end cap.

For comparison, this appears like a spider web,
 which either contains young spiders or an adult spider.

Inside the nest- Resin bees

 When I find resin bees inside nesting tunnels, I remove any mason bee cocoons , remove mason bee debris out of tunnels with a tooth brush, close up the nest and set out side ready for next year.
Two delicately placed resin walls.  No bees were in these cells.

Resin bee pupae within compartments made of resin.

Last year's resin bees emerged during summer months
when resin softened up with the heat.   

Horshoe Bay, BC: An early winter

19th Nov 2011.  I took this photo at the Horshoe Bay ferry terminal en route to
Gibsons, BC.  The snow level is about 800 feet above sea level.

Inside the nest:Beneficial wasps

Here the beneficial wasp is inside a routered tray nesting tunnel,
 securely within its mud vestibule.
TODO:  Remove any mason bee cocoons with a Scoop and  remove
debris with an old toothbrush.  Then replace lid over beneficial wasps and  set
outside ready for next year.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

New Limited edition -Scoop with natural wood handle

Randy from Olympia has created a unique and premium product for Beediverse.
The new product is a handcrafted scoop with the handle crafted from native wood.
The wood stock is carefully dried until it stabilized without cracking.  Then the handle is hand-crafted into a scoop handle.  Wood type available is flowering plum, native hazel nut and cherry while quantities last.
The plum is dense and heavier then the hazel.  The hazel is a lighter wood and tough.    Cherry  has a reddish brown color.Go to the link below and see our new product.  This is a great product for the mason bee keeper who has everything!

Variation in hand-crafted Limited Edition Scoops
 For a bit of fun, Randy took a photo while he was grinding a scoop at the grinding wheel.  What is interesting about all this is that hard metal creates lots of sparks, like in this photo, and softer metals create very few sparks. Great photo Randy!
Sparks come-a-flying off high quality metal while Randy is grinding the metal down to form a scoop.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Inside nests: Mix of cocoon types and wasp pupae

Last week a mason bee keeper asked me to look at these two photos and give them feedback on the insects inside the nesting tunnels.  Every nesting tunnel tells a story!
These are beneficial wasp pupae encased in a very delicate cover.
  These beneficial wasps provision their nests with either spiders,
 aphids or moth larvae.  Sometimes if an egg does not
 develop the larvae food remains in the cell.  

This is a picture of cocoons harvested from nesting tunnels.
The dark brown, still with mud attached, is from the early
 spring mason bee Osmia lignaria.  The reddish cocoon with its bright
 orange fecal material and masticated leaf plugs are probably
 Osmia californica.  Osmia californica is active towards the end of the
 early spring mason bee activity.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

What do mason bee cocoons look like inside the nest?

These cocoons were harvested early October just when weather was getting colder
and water was condensing on the Quicklock nesting trays.
Early enough to  avoid fungal growth over cocoons.

These cocoons were harvested in early Nov, after cold weather had settled in.
A few cocoons were covered in mold.  This mold is easily washed off in cold water and a little bleach.
Quicklock nesting trays with 4 healthy looking cocoons.
Cocoons are covered in feces which is easily washed off in cold water.
Quicklock trays with healthy cocoons.  The brown and black speckles
are bee feces or frass.
Frass is easily washed off in cold water.

These are different coloured mason bee mud plugs in Quicklock nesting trays.
The black paint is used to help bees orient to their nesting tunnel.

Small cocoons towards the front of the tunnel are usually males.
The females are in the back of the nesting tunnel and are larger than the male cocoon.
Sometimes a nesting tunnel consists of a few mud debris.
The female either died before she could finish the nest or she  became
 disoriented and found another nesting tunnel for nesting.
Tunnels can be completely full or partly filled.

Pink grub inside nests

Harvesting cocoons from Corn Quicklock trays is fun.  You open two pieces of interlocking trays and you see what is inside.  Every row tells its own story and often it is a very different from the adjacent nesting tunnel.  It is great to see bees at work, but it is very exciting to see what they have produced and to see what other insects are using these nesting tunnels as their home.

This pink larvae has a brown head capsule.  It feeds on any detritus and pollen in the tunnel.  If left inside over the winter, it can chew through cocoons and destroy your bees.  After it has spun its cocoon, it emerges again during the early summer as a moth.  I remove these grubs from the nest as I harvest mason bee cocoons.
The warmth of the room where we harvested the mason bee cocoons warmed up the larvae and made it active.  It was travelling around the tray as I photographed it.  In the foreground are two mud walls dividing two cells each containing a male bee cocoon.  The female cocoon usually fills the space between the walls of the nesting tunnel.  Each cocoon is covered in frass and some mites.

Here is the larvae spinning its web  for its overwintering period.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Nesting materials- 4mm corrugated plastic

I use a wedge of corrugated plastic to secure nesting trays into a Highrise home.  Corrugated plastic sheeting is made from 100% recyclable plastic and it is easy to cut and fold to fit any cavity.  I jam it into the space above the nesting trays and trays are secured into the Highrise. 

For the second year in a row, I have had mason bees nesting in these tiny nesting cavities.  These tiny cocoons are similar in colour as Osmia lignaria cocoons, but much smaller in size.  I have not seen this small bee fly, so I do not know what they look like nor do I know what time of the year they appear.  If you have a piece of corrugated plastic, set a piece in amongst your other nest materials and see what happens.
Here is the Highrise with nesting trays (without the cedar roof).  The gap above the nesting trays is where I insert the folded plastic corrugated material and use it as a wedge to securely hold trays in place.

A folded piece of corrugated plastic acts like a wedge above Highrise nesting trays.  Most holes in corrugated plastic are used as nesting tunnels by a species of summer mason bee, as can be seen by the presence of mud plugs.The nesting material below the blue corrugated plastic are the Beediverse Quicklock Corn trays.  Here the different coloured mud plugs indicates that mason bees use different sites to collect their mud. 

The spring mason bee cocoon is on the left (with its nesting trays on the far left).  The tiny summer mason bee cocoon is on the right. 

After slicing the nesting tunnel open you can see how the tiny cocoon fits into the tiny nesting tunnel.

Closeup of plastic corrugated sheets filled with mud plugs.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Osmia californica by M. D Levin 1966

I had to go to my old stomping ground to get this article.  In 10 years Simon Fraser University did not seem to have changed much- although I did only go to the library.  It is a short ride from my home and so tonight I thought to chase up the 1966 article by Levin.  I wondered into the library, walked up to the 5th floor and found The Journal of Kansas Entomological Society.  Just like that!  I spent a lot of my time in amongst these rows and rows of journals.  So it was not surprising that I found the green volumes so quickly.  Unfortunately there was no volume number 39.  I went to information and a kind gentleman looked to see if the library had it hidden from my view.  No, but library did have it in digital format.  Perfect!  It was fairly simple to search for it on the computer and get it printed out.  Parking for 55mins was $3.25!  But enough about my adventure. 

Here is what Levin had to say about Osmia californica.  Levin compares Osmia lignaria with Osmia californica.  I will focus on the details of Osmia californica.

Osmia californica
-Restricts pollen collection from a few composites
-Does not always overwinter as an adult (lignaria overwinters as an adult)
-About half of 33 overwintering cocoons were prepupae and the remaining half were adult
-Uses a mixture of mud and small amount of leaf tissue (lignaria uses mud only)
-Leaves no vestibule at entrance to nest (lignaria leaves a vestibule)
-Seals last cell with a thicker partition and does not build an end plug
-Buries its egg within the pollen mass (lignaria lays the egg on top of the pollen mass).

I think the most interesting part of this information is that Osmia californica does not always complete their transformation into an adult bee by winter.  This means that some bees overwinter as prepupae and complete their development the following spring.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Osmia californica cocoons

Osmia californica cocoons are yellowish with bright orange frass (fecal pellets)
Osmia californica cocoons