Masons are 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). Multitudes of Long Islanders have become bee ranchers through Blossom Meadow Farm. 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 are gentle creatures who rarely sting. I have only been stung once — I squeezed a female in my fist to provoke her and the resulting sting only felt like a mosquito bite! Mason bee females are gentle because the same individual that visits flowers to collect food (and pollinate) is the same individual that is laying eggs. She doesn’t want to get into a fight with you and risk dying. She wants to survive to lay eggs. Male bees of any species are not able to sting.