With the nice weather finally here in Seattle, our mason bees have been busy pollinating flowers and laying eggs for next spring. I say “our” bees because we put up a little bee house on our side porch several years ago. We started off with a few tubes of ready-to-hatch bees purchased at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show, but as soon as we put them outside they flew away never to be seen again. The bee tubes were empty for a year but then the following spring some bees moved in, and their descendents have been making their home in the bee house ever since.
Mason bees don’t produce honey, but they’re prolific pollinators; they’re great for our vegetable and flower gardens. The term “mason” is used for them because they build mud walls to protect their eggs during the winter. When we notice a cardboard tube in the bee house get plugged up with a mud wall, we set aside that tube and put in a new one so that the females can continue laying eggs. Here’s two bees finishing sealing up their tubes, with a recently-sealed tube nearby, and the overflow area up above:
It’s been rather fun to watch their frantic activity each spring from our kitchen, occasionally hearing high-pitched buzzing when one bee accidentally intrudes on another’s tube turf. One bee per tube – that’s their rule.