The pictures above are from my original post in 2011. Click on picture for a larger image.

I went out to visit he Mason Bee house in my garden yesterday and I have to report that there is an absence of activity, Looks like I will need to buy some more cocoons to replenish the population. Last season I watched as they went about their business and at one time there were 16 tubes filled and packed with developing Mason Bees. Over time they all hatched out and zoomed off to wherever they go. My dilemma now is how to increase the pollinating activities in my yard. On the positive side I have seen a few honey bees in the yard….so I know that they are around and hopefully healthy.

I may look into ordering some more bees this week…. Here is the a listing for the small company that I used last year;

The process was real simple and the instructions were pretty darned good. The challenge is to make sure you keep the female cocoons separate from the males and then load them into the tubes properly…..I guess they don’t deliver breach very well! Most of what I grow tends to do pretty well as the plants mostly self pollinate but they do benefit from mother nature stepping in and having her little helpers buzz around.

Mason Bees are helping many commercial growers contend with the problem of  honey bees disappearing all across North America. The biologists call it “colony collapse disorder” and they don’t understand why! Lots of theories but no definitive answers yet. There is some evidence that bee colonies used in organic farming sites do not seem to be as hard hit by the colony collapse disorder. I hope they are on to something…so much of the commercial growing is dependent on honey  bees for pollination.

As I was writing this blog I was doing a little research and I may not have to be too concerned about my Mason Bees. One of the tubes in my “bee house” had a plugged end and now I notice that it is missing. So, that may mean I have some mason bees already working for me. I don’t pay real well but I try to set a nice and chemical free table for them. There is also a good chance that I will attract some that are native in the area to my” house”. Fingers are crossed and I will be looking at everything in blossom now for evidence.

The new experiment is underway. I have built two circular wire cages for my spud growing. Many years ago I had seen an article about growing potatoes in wire cages and in barrels. Last summer I tossed some sprouted and soft potatoes into my compost bin and they found it to their liking. This year I am “intentionally” growing them above ground. Once they emerge I will begin posting some pictures. Anyone that is interested can find lots of great information with a search on the web. I chose wire cages because I was concerned that the barrels may hold too much heat from the Houston summer temperatures. I harvested a handful of “new” potatoes from the compost bin last year and hope to significantly increase my harvest this year.