Raising Mason Bees

Lizzie Homemaker mason bee cocoons
The kids examine our mason bee cocoons before we put them out to hatch.

Our family is keeping mason bees this year and we’re all very excited.

We decided to raise mason bees for a few reasons.

First off, it’s easy.  Unlike the social honey bee, mason bees are solitary bees so they don’t live in a hive that you’d have to manage – they require almost no effort.

Secondly, it’s a great hands-on educational project for the kids.  In case you’re wondering, I’m not worried about the kids getting stung.  Mason bees are extremely gentle creatures – they have no colony or queen to protect and male bees don’t even have stingers.

Lastly, pollinators are on the decline and we need to help them flourish so that we can flourish!  Since our visit last fall to the Museum of Science in Buffalo, NY, my daughter has regularly reminded me that nature doesn’t need us, we need nature: this is our little way of giving nature a helping hand.

Keeping mason bees is simple.   It requires three things:  a home for the bees, a garden for the bees, and, of course, bees.

#1 – A Home for the Bees

You can buy mason bee homes online or you can make one.  Place the house at eye level on a south or south-east facing wall that will receive morning sunlight and not blazing afternoon heat. Make sure the house is at eye level so you can watch the action unfold!

# 2 – A Garden for the Bees

Mason bees need a garden with spring flowering plants because they are only active for about 6 weeks in the spring.  They’ll need a steady supply of nectar and pollen during this time and some mud and/or exposed dirt for their nests.  By June they’re done foraging and the larvae are sealed off to become cocoons for next spring. Pesticide use is strongly discouraged since its primary purpose is to kill pests.

# 3 – Mason Bees

If you keep a garden you may already have mason bees but if you don’t, or if you want to watch these amazing insects from the cocoon stage onwards, you can simply purchase them online.  Google where to buy mason bees.

I ordered cocoons and they came in the mail.  I’ve been storing them the fridge, patiently waiting for the good spring weather to come – and now it’s time to put them out to hatch!

Place the bees outside in or near their house when temperatures are consistently above 10 degrees Celsius/50 Fahrenheit.  You should have spring flowers blooming in the garden.  You can stagger the release of the bees and put them out in a couple batches but be sure to put out a mix of males and females.  You can identify gender by the size of cocoons as the males are smaller than the females.

Watch the video above to learn more and enjoy!  It’s really that easy.