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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Spring is just around the corner in Vancouver!

A few days ago on March 20th, I drove into Vancouver and Stanley Park to see if spring had arrived in the city. Trees still don't have their leaves, but some bushes and flowering trees are out.  These flowering trees and bushes are critical for insects to survive the cooler early spring weather.
At first sight, this is a very uninteresting side-walk,
one that is purely functional.  This was the case
until I drove by .  I had to have another look.

On closer inspection, this hedge was a Pieris japonica hedge.
 The scent was awesome.  It seems that trimming the hedge
stimulates more flower production.

Pieris japonica, flowers in full bloom.

A Vancouver residential street.  No leaves were visible on these trees.

Blooming heather plants in a rockery.

Blooming cherry blossoms.

Stanley Park, Vancouver BC

Stanley Park, Vancouver BC.  North shore mountains in background.

Stanley park, Vancouver BC.  No leaves on these giants yet!
Grass was green and crocuses were out.

Coquitlam NOW newspaper article on Mason bees.

Click on the link here

A good overview of mason bees and what they can do for the gardener.


Saturday, March 19, 2011

Radio 650 CISL with Brian Minter and special guest Dr.Margriet Dogterom

Brian Minter of Minter Country Gardens invited me to be part of the 1 hour radio broadcast this morning. It was a beautiful sunny drive to Minter Country Gardens in Chilliwack, BC.  I arrived at 8. 30 in time for a coffee at their restaurant.  At 9am sharp the show started and we were kept busy answering a variety of great questions.  Brian covered questions on pruning, scented flowers, lawn care, tree care, blueberry varieties and much more.  It was a very lively and interesting question and answer period.   A few of the many Questions and Answers were:
Q:  Can you buy mason bees?
A:  Yes, at Garden stores, wild bird stores and grocery stores with a garden centers.  Mason bees come in small vials containing 10 hibernating mason bees.  They are ready to set out with a mason bee home.
Q:  What are summer mason bees?
A:  These native bees are similar to the early spring mason bee, but come out anywhere from May to October.  There are hundreds of species of summer mason bees out there.  Each species is out for about a month, pollinating whatever bloom is out at that time.  All you do is set out a Summer mason Bee Home with smaller nesting tunnels then the ones used for spring mason bees (less than 1/4").  You will be surprised that after a year you will have 1-3 species of summer mason bees nesting in the house.
Q: I have lots of bees in the garden, should I provide housing for these bees?
A:  Housing helps to protect bees from birds and other insects that predate on bees.  Housing gives the bees an opportunity to survive and produce more offspring for next year.  I think the most enjoyable thing though about setting up housing for mason bees is that you can watch them fly about the nest and know where to find them.

Another session is in the works for early summer and cover more about the Summer Mason Bees.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Early spring flowers for bees: Heather and Pieris japonica

The best way to find the kind of flowers bees like is to go shopping on a sunny day.  Wild bumble bees, honey bees and mason bees will be at the flowers that produce nectar.

There is an old variety of red heather that is very attractive to bees because it produces nectar.  I think it is called Kramer red.  If someone can confirm the attractiveness of this variety of Heather- that would be great.

Of course  the shrub Pieris japonica is a great source of nectar too.

Event: Victoria, British Columbia

Patricia at Garden Works will be doing a seminar on "The Secret life of Mason Bees".  She has been looking after mason bees for 14 years and has had all kinds of adventures with mason bees.  She at one time nurtured bees in a aquarium because they had emerged way before spring blossoms opened up.  She fed them by presenting blooming heather to them every 2 days and successfully released them when spring really arrived.
Sunday 20th March at 11am
Garden Works
1916 Oak Bay
Victoria, BC V8R 1C7
give them a call and let them know you are coming.  250 595 4200

Monday, March 14, 2011

How to: Success with mason bees in rainy spring weather.

Spring is notorious for its rainy days and stormy weather amongst some beautiful sunny days.

If you set out all your mason bee cocoons out at one time, bees might catch a bit of sunny weather, pollinate your fruit trees and produce offspring for next year.

But, if bad weather arrives and it stays around for 2 weeks, it is likely you will not get any mason bee offspring nor will you have any pollination. 

With a few mason bees, there is no choice but to set out your cocoons at one time.  Hopefully the weather is reasonable.

However if you have a handful of bees, maybe 50, 100, 200 etc, you can divide them up into 3 or 4 batches.  Set the first group of cocoons out about once week before tree fruit begins to bloom.

Then, make a schedule and write it on a calendar, perhaps setting out the 2nd, 3rd and 4th batch of cocoons out every week.

If the rain does come, it will wipe out one of the batches, but not every batch of mason bee cocoons.

Good luck!

It is all about timing.....

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Day 4 Seattle Flower and Garden Show Feb, 2011

The Beez Neez (Snohomish,WA) booth was no doubt a booth about mason bee homes.  Two fruit trees were set at the back to tell people that these bees are great pollinators for tree fruit pollination.  A Pieris japonica was also part of the display to tell people that this plant is a great food source for mason bees that emerge early in spring.  
Highrises (On left hand side of the table) were a favourate for customers who still had to set out a couple of hundred cocoons or more.  It is very easy to set out cocoons with the Highrise by simply laying cocoons underneath the roof.  The Lodge was a fast seller to people starting out with mason bees (Square box home) and to people who wanted a mason bee home that was 'ready to use".  The ECO Corn Quicklock trays were a great seller to the handyman and the Royal always a favourate as a gift (curved roof- in center of display).
The wasp-proof net bag was also displayed to show that it is a very useful item to prevent parasitism of newly formed mason bees.  This is done after spring flight.

Mugs with a mason bee and the Beediverse logo made a great display!

How to: Searching for articles on specific topics

If you are interested in reading about a certain topic use the SEARCH window just below the Welcome notice of this blog, rather than scrolling through all the blogs and manually searching through all blogs.

You type a word or series of words into the SEARCH window and it finds the articles that include the specific words.
For example:
setting out cocoons    4 articles
candling                     2 articles
workshops                 1 article
how to                        4 articles
It is a great way  to find articles with a specific topic.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

New to Mason Bees?

Spring is a great time of year to get started with mason bees.

Having your own mason bees to pollinate your fruit trees helps to get a better fruit set, more and larger fruit.

Wherever you live, set out a mason bee home on a East facing wall, under cover from the rain, and in the sunshine.

Mason bees are present in North America, Asia, and in Europe.  Each continent with its own species.  Their nesting habits are the same.

You get better results if you set out a 5-6 homes for mason bees in your region.  With more nests, it is more likely that one of the nest is placed where a local mason bee will find it.  She will then produce offspring for you for next spring's pollination season.

To keep mason bees healthy every year, harvest cocoons, clean out the nest and set the clean home out ready for spring.
Mor information on cleaning cocoons and nest can be found in my book "Pollination with Mason Bees".  Available from your store or our on line web site

Friday, March 11, 2011

March on the West coast-North America

Spring is a busy season for everyone!

Stores are stocked up with mason bee homes, books and DVD's.  Most gardeners have set out their cleaned mason bee home and are ready for the bees to come out.  Some new mason bee enthusiasts, missed out on getting their mason bees, but they are still setting out their bee homes, because a female in the area, might find the nest and produce offspring for next year.

Nectarine and peach blossoms are opening up in California.  This is also happening in Arizona, but a recent frost likely damaged a lot of blossoms.

Here in Vancouver BC temperatures are still cool, but Pieris japonicus is out especially in protected areas such as alongside buildings.

Rex Welland always told me that in the warmer Victoria (BC), mason bees would come out mid-March, and fill their first nesting tubes by late March.  Right on schedule!

Watch out for the tell tale sign of clay-like deposits on the front of the nest.  These are the first droppings of the newly emerged bees.