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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.