My brother Wayne took some great photos this week of these adorable little mason bees emerging from his homemade bee box. There are around 130 species of these wonderful pollinators in North America.
The males are the first to emerge from the nest box. All of these photos are of males – they have longer antennae than females. Mason bees, unlike honey bees, are solitary and do not produce honey or beeswax. No queen bee is needed, as each female is fertile and able to mate and lay eggs.
Ooops…caught this little fella doing his “business”. The bee droppings look like mud and it’s my guess that’s what they’re made of since the bees have to chew through layers of mud in order to leave the nest.
Each female mason bee collects pollen and nectar from flowers to make a ball of food for her young. She will find a suitable nesting site in a hollow plant stem or an existing hole in wood. She lays a single egg on top of the pollen ball and then builds a mud wall to seal off the compartment. She continues to do this until the nest is filled. The fertilized eggs will become females and these are the first to be deposited. The unfertilized eggs all become males and these are closest to the opening of the nest.
Mason bees are well-adapted to live in areas where the winter temperatures can dip below zero. They are valuable pollinators for wild flowers since they will fly on spring days that are too cold for honey bees to venture out. They are also important for many of our food crops including fruit trees and blueberries.
Soon after emerging, these little guys were busy feeding from and pollinating the plants in my brother’s front lawn. In a few days the females should be emerging from the nest box so they can mate and start producing next year’s batch of bees.
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