Your bee house should already be installed on a non-moving south-southeast facing wall, post, or fence, tall enough for you to peek into easily. Now it’s time to set out nesting materials. For the spring mason bee, three things are vital: the correct nesting holes, available pollen, and good clayey mud.
Placing nesting holes: Female mason bees find their nesting hole first with sight and then by smell. Below are tips for setting out nesting materials in a way that will help your bees
easily find their nesting hole.
Wood nesting tray with 8mm holes: Place in the bee house with the back flush against the back wall and with nesting holes facing the front. The nesting holes of the nesting tray have been lightly burnished to provide the visual variety that bees prefer. (Why have wood trays? They are easy to open during fall harvest and you don't need to replace anything each year.)
Natural lake reeds and nesting tubes (8mm size): With nesting holes facing the front of the bee house, set the tubes or reeds in a haphazard or messy manner. Placing nesting holes in an uneven 3D pattern (sticking in or out a bit) can help the bees see which nesting hole is theirs. If you find a lot of excess space above your holes, fill that area with large sticks, large rocks, or wadded up paper. Birds may want to nest there which would be a disaster! (Why use reeds/paper tubes? They are easy for bees to use, paper is least expensive, but both types are replaced each year as you harvest cocoons in the fall.)
Mason bee attractants: If you have our older model blue attractant sheets, place one sheet between the nesting holes as you put your bees out, and the other a few weeks later. For our newer Invitabee spray attractant, apply about 10 squirts over the front of the holes before placing out the bees. The spray evaporates within minutes, leaving the nesting scent pheromone behind. (There are about twenty sprays in the container.) This attractant was patented by the USDA to be an attractant for more than the blue orchard mason bee. We're pleased to license it!
Releasing bees: Mason bees emerge from their cocoons when the weather begins to warm above 53°F. Watch the weather and be wary of a late snow. If you have enough cocoons, stagger your bee release by placing a few out now and a few more in a week or two. (Don't separate large cocoons from small as you want both large female and small males to be out at the same time.) Place cocoons on top of or behind the nesting holes (inside the house) so that the bees can get to know their home as they emerge. Protect cocoons from the wind by placing them inside a small paper cup or box.
Holding spring bees through April in the fridge: If your spring weather will not arrive for a few more weeks, add water to your HumidiBee and keep the refrigerator temperature very cool, about 34°F. Place the Humidibee into a paper bag which provides a darkness that helps the bees stay asleep. Continue to watch for moldy cocoons. The solution to solve mold issues is found at the bottom of thispage. Mason bees hibernate and survive on their stored fats. About now, their fat reservers are approaching empty, but not completely empty yet unless they've been subjected to warm temperatures through storage. By May, the bees will have to emerge or they will weaken and die. Mason bees should be outside by May 1st.
If bees are emerging in the fridge: These emerged bees have run out of stored fats (fuel) and must have food or perish. You can feed emerged bees with a cotton ball soaked in a 50/50 mix of water and white table sugar. While not a perfect food, it should keep them alive until your spring weather and flowers are ready.
Mason bee mud: Mason bees use mud to protect each egg chamber and they will not nest in your bee house if there is no usable mud nearby. Wet soil is not clay and wet garden dirt has too much humus in it and can't be gathered, carried, and packed. Mason bee mud should have a clay-like texture and bees need it to be moist so that they can gather and work with it. If your yard’s soil is silty or sandy, you can supplement with our mud mix. We believe moist clayey-mud in the ground is most natural, but if your soil is too porous and you would have to keep watering it, we developed the Mud Box which keeps mud moist for a long time and protects bees from frogs and birds as they gather mud.
Why do we recommend to keep bees in the fridge?
When spring is late to your area, you are able to keep your bees in hibernation mode longer with the cool temperature of the fridge. The bee’s metabolism is lower at a colder temperature and they use their valuable fat reserves slower. A fridge temperature of 34°F is best at this time of year.
With an earlier than normal spring warm weather may arrive early but the flower (pollen) isn't available. Bees that emerge with no food die. Keeping the bees in the fridge helps you hold their release until vital flowers are open. A bee within a refrigerator has no idea that it's warm outside! You're in charge.