The honeybees are taking a break. I was down at my local nursery a few weeks ago and was asking about flowers that I could plant to attract honey bees for pollinating my blackberries. I picked up some great advice from the folks working at Kingwood Nursery. Rather than count on the honey bees, as they are having problems, they recommended ordering some Mason bees. It jogged my memory and reminded me of an article I read a few years back recommending the use of Mason bees.
I bought a bee house and was sent 6 males and 4 females from http://www.masonbeesforsale.com/
A week after I installed the bee house I see that the females are gathering pollen and laying their eggs. My early blackberries are being serviced and pollinated. I have blossoms on my Meyer lemon, tons of strawberries, tomatoes and other ornamentals to keep the bees busy. I think my tomatoes and strawberries are self-pollinated but I think the help won’t hurt. A little Google search confirms that strawberries are primarily self-pollinated but respond to help from the bees. Oh, by the way, I have a few blueberry blossoms but I am a year or two away from having enough to pick.
The female Mason bees are fun to watch as they lay eggs and move forward in the tubes before they seal them off. I am amazed at how quickly they do their work! I spent a few minutes observing this evening and saw probably 3 of the females working three different tubes. Four tubes are plugged at the end already. They lay the female eggs at the rear and the males near the front opening. I wonder how they know the difference? The males exit first and eat their way out thus preserving the females. The bad news, from a guy’s perspective, is that the males emerge first, mate and then die!!!! I was hoping they would get to fool around for a season but it just doesn’t work out for the guys!
The bees aren’t cheap but it appears that they are preparing to multiply in a big way so it is an investment with multiple returns.