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Sunday, February 9, 2014
Posted By: Rebecca van der Zalm in Gardening

Introduction to Mason Bees

The Mason Bee is named for its habit of using mud to build nest compartments. The orchard mason bee is one of the best pollinators around. They can easily be mistaken for a small black & blue fly about 2/3 the size of a honey bee.

Image Courtesy: www.neighborhoodnotes.com

Whether you have fruit trees, a vegetable garden, or flowers, these bees will ensure you get the most out of what you are growing. While much attention has been paid to the honey bee, it is important to note that mason bees are exceptional pollinators without the wax, honey, swarm or sting.

It has been estimated that a honey bee can pollinate about 5% of the flowers it visits, whereas the mason bee pollinates about 95% and visits twice as many flowers! This pollination is crucial to growing vegetables and fruit and can help ensure a much greater yield in your garden.

How To Start Mason Bees

Mason bees require a nesting hole (drilled or nature made by beetles) 5/16 of an inch in diameter and 4 inches long. Arts Nursery has a great selection of custom made mason bee houses, and replacement tubes. We also sell boxes of bees instore during the early spring.

buy mason bee hives

You’ll want to put your bee hive outside during the month of March or April. Find a place in your yard that will be protected from rain and where the house will get morning sun, or a south-facing wall to maximize warmth from the sun. This will ensure that they are kept dry and the bees wake up earlier, ensuring more flowers are visited.

The males are the first on the scene, but these are not your key pollinators. They are necessary for reproduction of more female bees. The females will begin arriving around April, and in the month that follows, you will see the difference these bees will make in your garden.

Be sure to have plants that support their food needs. The earliest blooming food source (for pollinators) in the pacific west coast area is the red-flowering currant (Ribes sanguineum) certainly one of the most beloved and showy of native northwest shrubs. They offer a brilliant display of red flowers in spring, growing best in rocky, well-drained soil in a sunny location.This deciduous shrub can feed mason bees as well as early visiting humming birds.

Life cycle of the Mason Bee

Early Spring:
Adult bees break through mud walls and emerge from the bee box nests. The male bees, which leave the nest 2 weeks before the females, patiently wait for the females so that the mating process can begin. Once the female bees make it to the outside world (before their wings have a chance to dry) they are attacked and fertilized by the male bees. Then the males die.

Late Spring:
Females lay both fertilized and unfertilized eggs in the nesting holes and a mixture of pollen and nectar (bee pudding) is placed next to each egg. All of the fertilized eggs will produce female bees, whereas unfertilized ones will produce males. The female will lay about 35 eggs over 4-6 weeks, each one in its own protective chamber, sealed with mud. The egg turns into a larva in about 4 days, and eats it’s food supply.

Summer:
Larvae spin cocoons within the nesting hole. By September they are adult bees, but stay in a dormant state until next spring.

Winter:
The new bees are getting ready for early spring when they will emerge from their nests.

Mason Bee supplies are available in-store and online at our new web store: http://shop.artsnursery.com. The actual Mason Bees are available from February through April, in-store only.

If you have any questions about Mason Bees, please feel free to drop by or give us a call at Art's Nursery, 604.882.1201, during business hours.


Tuesday, May 7, 2013
Posted By: Lynne Bose in Gardening

Unless we use pesticides, our gardens are crawling with bugs!  To have a beautiful and  healthy garden, ornamental, edible or whatever, we have to encourage the good bugs that will help us get rid of the bad ones, that eat shrub leaves, put holes in our veggies, bring in plant diseases, and generally make a mess of our plants.

First we have to get to know who is who.  So get yourself a small hand lens and start checking out the insects in your garden.  You will hopefully see some of the following:

ladybug

Ladybugs

lacewing

Lacewings

hoverflies

Hoverflies

  1. Ladybugs are the poster girls of beneficial insects, because of their total cuteness!  Who doesn't love them.  The adults eat up to 50 aphids per day, and the larve – look for yellow and black alligators – eat up to 400 aphids before pupating.  Ladybugs also eat other soft bodied insects, like mealybugs, and soft scales.
  2. Ground beetles are the shiny, dark coloured guys with the jointed legs, often found under plant debris or organic mulches.  They work at night, devouring insect eggs and larva.
  3. Lacewings are those beautiful, gauzy green winged bugs that remind me of Tinkerbell.  Their larva (1/2” tiny alligators )  eat voraciously of aphids, mealybugs, leafhoppers and whiteflies.  You definitely want them in your garden as they are the most effective predator you can buy.
  4. Hoverflies are those little bee looking insects with the striped abdomens.  But they buzz around like flies when they are laying their eggs near aphids or other soft bodied insects.  The hoverfly eggs hatch and eat the aphids.  Smart huh!
  5. Parasitic wasps are tiny, tiny, and  non stinging.  The best known are the Trichogramma.  Parasitic wasps lay their eggs in moth and butterfly eggs, which could grow into those ugly loopers that eat your cole crops or build tents in your trees.
  6. After getting to know your bugs, you will wish to encourage more of the beneficials into your garden.  To do this, you need to provide a diversified habitat of shrubs, perennials and annuals for nectar and protein,  water, and shelter.  Try to include plants that flower at different times.

Lets start with the annuals as they grow quickly to provide nectar and protein, and there is plenty of choice.   Any plant with an umbel flower ie like a dill flower, is  beloved by beneficials.  This includes dill, Queen Anne's lace, and carrots and parsley if you let them go to seed.

Plants with composite flowers – think daisy here-, are also great.  So include cosmos, zinnias, annual asters, marguerites,  california poppies, Gem marigolds, sunflowers and bachelor buttons.

Annuals for bugs

 

I plant a lot of allysum too, especially around roses, because allysum brings in a lot of aphid eating syrphid flies.  It also is wonderfully fragrant, and makes a great edging or annual ground cover.  Borage is another great annual for dry situations.  Lacewings love to lay their eggs on borage, and it has true  blue, flowers that taste like cucumbers, and are good in salads.

Include some perennials when you are shopping for annuals.  Agastache has leaves that smell like licorice, and the pretty blue, fuzzy flower spikes are very attractive to a number of different beneficials.   I recommend trying perennial asters, yarrow (try Moonshine, the designer's favourite), lavender, mint, goldenrod, red flowering thyme, and echinacea.

Perennials for bugs

 

I'm experimenting with the red flowering thyme in my Brassica veggies this year.  I'm hoping it will attract parasitic wasps to eat those looper eggs.  Perennials with dense crowns  and woody stems are great for shelter.  Leave those stems over the winter for best results.  Clump forming grasses are good for shelter too.

Last but not least, there are some good shrubs to include in your garden.  Pussy willows  provide early pollen.  Forsythia, potentilla, ceanothus, euonymus, and pyracantha are all helpful for pollen and nectar, and to provide shelter.

Shrubs for bugs

 

Art's Nursery regularly has some benefical insects available, including ladybugs, predatory mites, nematodes for weevil control and nematodes for your lawn.  Some may be a special order, so just ask the friendly staff.  Other beneficial insects are available by mail order too.

So, it's certainly not a quick bug fix, but over time you can have a beautiful and chemical free garden and habitat for you, and all kinds of other creatures.  Experiment and research to find what works best for you.  It's fascinating!


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Art's Nursery is a 10+ acre retail and wholesale garden centre located in Surrey, a suburb of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. We've been in business at this same location since 1973 and we're proud to serve you today!

We carry an incredible selection of plants, shrubs, trees, annuals, perennials, vines, groundcovers, roses and much more. Soils, bulk materials, pottery and a variety of garden accents are also available.

Our plant selection is so large that you can actually drive a golf cart while you shop!

We pride ourselves on providing high quality plant, expert advice and an exceptional gardening experience.

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