Masons are gentle, easy to keep spring bees and fabulous for pollinating apples, cherries, apricots, peaches and garden flowers. They are so good at pollinating that their furry undersides make them look like flying cheetos as they belly flop from flower to flower collecting nectar and pollen. Mason bees pollinate 2-3 times better than honeybees because of their furriness, way of flying and how they visit flowers.
Keeping mason bees is called bee ranching (keeping honeybees is beekeeping). Dozens of Long Islanders have become bee ranchers through Blossom Meadow Farm in the last three years and more continue each year. Drop by our store in Cutchogue to learn more.
Mason bees are adapted to local, cool spring weather. Native bees including mason bees are pollination insurance in agricultural settings as they will visit flowers when it is cold and drizzly out whereas honeybees only like to fly on nice weather days. Most crops bloom for 1-2 weeks. The presence of native bees in agricultural fields also seem to make honeybees work harder, moving to more flowers between rows which increases cross pollination, leading to larger fruit.
Mason bees live in hollow tunnels (hollow plant stems, beetle tunnels in a dead tree, holes in driftwood, even empty snail shells!). Consider putting up a bee bundle or a bee cottage to help these winged wonders! There are 25 species of mason bee native to New York. All mason bees overwinter in cocoons as adults and hatch out when it is 50 degrees or warmer for three days in a row (males first). As the females are gathering food for themselves as well as their bee babies, they are the primary pollinators. Mason bees only live as a flying adult bee for about 6 weeks.