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By Roger Boddaert
Special to Village News 

Mason bees are nature's spring pollinators


Last updated 3/4/2020 at 2:43pm

Several bees have a breakfast of pollen on a matilija poppy.

Of the over 4,000 bee species native to North America, the mason bees are the easiest to raise and are indigenous to the area. These bees are also gentle and amazing pollinators for fruits, veggies and flowers around the home landscape.

These bees are different from the honey bees, for gardeners can raise them in the backyard by providing nesting sites in a simple mason bee house. A female mason bee carries pollen mainly on the underside of her hairy abdomen and scrapes the pollen off within her nest to feed her youngsters.

These bees are awesome pollinators because they busily flit back and forth between flowering branches of fruit trees and are better pollinators than honey bees and are not the stinging type of bees, if not provoked.

Mason bees are easy to care for because they will nest in pre-made holes and will spend the winter hibernating in their own waterproof cocoons. Place the bee box so it gets morning sun that will warm up the bees and protection from the elements.

Nestled among fruit trees is an ideal spot to start their colony and will help in the pollination of fruit tree crops. It is said that mason bees out pollinate honey bees 80 to 1. I would like to be there when someone is collecting that ratio data.

Also, remember that native bees like native plants and the natural chaparral that surrounds Fallbrook are a great harvesting area for the mason bee colony. A wide variety of native plants, flowers and fruit trees can be a source of food for these hard-working bees collecting pollen and bringing it back to their home hive.

There are some premade mason bee houses that have small open bamboo tubes in assorted sizes where they can give birth to their young, and they will go out and collect some mud to bring back to the hive. This construction creates the small compartments in sections within the tubes hence the name mason as in a mason who works with cement in his craft of masonry. These bee houses provide shelter like an incubator and protect the bees from the weather elements over the winter season.

When the baby bees awaken, they will eat their way out through these mud walls and actively hunt for food and their own sustenance.

I have seen various sizes and designs of these premade mason bee boxes online, or gardeners can make their own following some simple guidelines from the internet. It would be a fun project for children to build and understand how they can help nature be more sustainable for the future and perhaps be a great Eagle Scout project.

Recently, I stumbled into a pre-made combination of a mason beehive and a butterfly shelter, and it's my first time trying out this dual habitat structure and will see how it goes, so stay tuned down the road.

With the loss of habitat, native butterflies are declining in great numbers throughout the world. When rain forests are over logged and natural stands of flora are wiped out, this loss is all part of the "big-picture" in nature's food chain, and gardeners might be able to help out in some small way.

The picture shows the combination of both housings for bees and butterflies, which are nature's hard-working pollinators of the earth.

When residents plant a diverse and varied garden or landscape, it helps to attract the birds and the bees, which is a good thing in the precious balance of life.

Flowering grevilleas also attracts bees to the garden.

As the world weather is changing day by day, nothing is normal anymore, and food crops around the globe depend upon nature's pollinators.

Without these hard-working engineers, food would begin to decline, and the feeding of over 7 billion people on earth would have massive challenges for the future. Residents can make a part of their life the healing and caring for the planet.

Everyone has the responsibility to do whatever and however they can to help Mother Earth, for the times are changing and blowing in the winds my friends.

Roger Boddaert creates beautiful and sustainable landscapes throughout Southern California and is aka Maker of Natural Gardens and The Tree Man of Fallbrook. He can be reached at (760) 728-4297.


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