I got taken to task, very kindly, by commercial mason bee producer and entrepreneur Dave Hunter after he read my story about pollinator pathways in Pacific Northwest magazine last Sunday (click here to read).
Hunter is working to buffer a pollination crisis he sees coming in the next 5-7 years in the U.S. with the decline of the honeybee. He says that providing plenty of pollen, as I suggested doing in my story, just isn't enough. Mason bees might just be the answer, and gardeners can help by housing and encouraging these non-aggressive, gentle and productive bees in their gardens. "A long range plan has us reaching out to NW backyard gardeners in 5-7 years and asking for their excess mason bees to be used in Wenatchee and Yakima orchards. It may be that serious," Hunter writes.
A few facts about the hardworking little mason bee, which fortunately isn't in decline like honeybees:
-The mason bee season starts in March - as the garden comes alive, so do the bees, and are active through May, which is ideal timing to pollinate fruit trees and other early bloomers.
- There are over 130 species of mason bees that use a hole to store their pollen. The one we’re most familiar with (for now) is the blue orchard bee.
- If you garden organically, have some mud and pollen in your garden, and provide shelter to keep the straws/reeds in which the bees gather and store pollen dry, you can raise mason bees.
See Hunter's website at www.crownbees.com to learn how to successfully house and raise mason bees. Love this - you can not only learn all about mason bees on the web site and order some for your garden (now's the time) but also sign up to get "bee-mail" to remind you of what you need do when to take care of your bees.