Mason Bees Steal Lead Over Honey Bees In Pollinators’ Marathon

Differing from Honey Bees, Mason Bees have a long wait for their first supper — namely the time it takes for a human to have a baby — nine long months. But where they do have a leg up — or stinger as the case may be — they do beat out their humming cousins when it comes to dining at the first floral buffet in early spring.

Mason Bees are busier bees . . .

"Mason Bees fill a spot in the season when other pollinators like honeybees are not out," said Brooke Edmunds, a horticulturist with Oregon State University Extension Service. Honey Bees don't appear until the heat the summer. By that time, Mason Bees are having their way with all the fruit trees and rose bushes in the area.

After emerging in early March, the small, bluish bees start foraging for floral fodder for their next generation, while also combing for suitable nesting sites.

"They're solitary, non-aggressive bees, so they're very different from Honey Bees; they don't form hives," said Edmunds, author of the OSU Extension publication Nurturing Mason Bees in Your Backyard in Western Oregon.

Mason Bees pollinate like crazy . . .

Mason Bees like their names imply are tough laborers. They pollinate flowers and fruit trees more than the Honey Bee. Instead of wetting the pollen and having it stick to their legs before going back for the nectar, the Mason Bee efficiently gathers the pollen and nectar on the same visit. They aggressively mobilize by attacking branches of trees and plants, instead of focusing on stripping the goods from one source.

Mason Bees make food . . .

Mason Bees make hay when the sun shines. They don’t want to rule the world. Their lives are all too short for that. They’re only on planet Earth for a quick 3 months.

However, they do serve a major purpose. “Honey Bees are terrific pollen gatherers, but Mason Bees are phenomenal pollinators,” said Dave Hunter, founder of Crown Bees in Woodinville. “Honey Bees make honey, but Mason Bees make food.”

According to one source, one Mason Bee can pollinate as much as 75 Honey Bees — and that’s said to be a conservative estimate.

To underscore their food-making capabilities, one case study about a fruit farmer in Omak, Washington significantly illustrates the point. This farmer had nine acres of cherry trees and decided on the reliance of Mason Bees to pollinate his crop. The end result: “He ended up with six tons of extra cherries per acre last harvest,” Hunter attested.

Life’s short but sweet . . .

A mason bee’s sweet disposition is a product of its short life—six weeks for the queens, and just two weeks for her suitors. Those weeks are devoted to creating the next generation, so they don’t have time to be either aggressive or territorial.

Does this post stimulate your interest in adding Mason Bees to your community garden this year? They’re sure to spruce up tons of sweetness (but literally and figuratively) that are not only pretty to look at, but also tasty when you add them to your next buffet.

Queen Mason Bee
                  Queen Mason Bee returning home after a hard's day work


Primary Source: Mason Bees Go To Work Early