5 Reasons You Should Invite Mason Bees in the Garden

May 21, 2023

When it comes to bees in the garden, you likely have one of two reactions. Either pure excitement, or pure fear. No matter your reaction, I urge you to read on as I introduce you to a friendly hardworking bee, named the mason bee. And by the end of this post, I am certain you will be excited about inviting mason bees in the garden.

Personally, I love bees. If I had it my way, I would have honey bee hives in my backyard (and don’t be surprised when I finally bite the bullet and get them!). I started inviting mason bees in the garden a few years ago when I learned about the low maintenance/high impact they would provide in my urban garden. I also loved knowing that inviting them in would be supporting native pollinators. 

Mason Bee in the Garden

Let’s review the top 5 reasons why you should invite mason bees in the garden:

1. Mason bees are unlikely to sting you

Mason bees are unlikely to sting you for a couple of reasons. First, they are solitary bees, which means they don’t have a hive or a queen to protect. This is the number one reason why honey bees sting – to protect their hives.

The second reason is – while female mason bees have stingers, males do not. And even with their stinger, female mason bees are very unlikely to sting you unless you aggressively assault them. These bees are incredibly gentle and non threatening.

2. They are about 120 times more efficient at pollinating than honey bees!

Mason bees are generalist foragers, which means they will feast on whatever they can reach! This is great news if you need your garden or backyard orchard pollinated. Also, when they land on a flower to pollinate, they belly flop! This means these little beauties are covered in pollen, rather than just the back legs of honey bees. This also means they pollinate 95% of the flowers they land on, rather than just the 5% that honey bees pollinate.

Mason Bees In the Garden

3. Mason bees are active in lower temperatures

Honey bees usually wait until temperatures rise to above 60 degrees before they start foraging. Depending on where you live, your orchard trees may have already bloomed before you hit that temperature range. Mason bees start foraging at around 55 degrees, making them popular bees for orchards and spring gardens.

4. Mason bees take up very little space

Mason bees nest in narrow spaces to reproduce and lay their eggs. Out in nature, this may be in woodpecker holes, insect holes or wood piles. In your backyard, you can easily set up a house with narrow bamboo reeds and/or nest blocks that are a perfect size for them. No need to worry about them going too far, as they only forage within 300-400 feet from their nest. You can rest assured your garden will be well pollinated, and you will get to continue to observe them.

Mason Bees in the Garden

5. Not susceptible to Varroa Mite, which is what is wiping out honey bees

There is no doubt you have heard that honey bees are in great decline. One of the reasons for this decline is Varroa Mite, which is an external parasite that weakens honey bees as well as transmits viruses. Overtime, this can lead to the collapse of the honeybee colony. The mere fact that mason bees are not susceptible to this devastating mite is great relief. Mason bees are susceptible to other pests, including pollen mites. However, good hygiene of nesting materials can help prevent infestations.

How to Invite Mason Bees in the Garden

  • Find a spot that has good morning light exposure – typically south or southeastern exposure. Mason bees need that early morning light to signal that it is time to get up and get to foraging!
  • Make sure the spot you chose is a flat and secure surface, about 5-6’ off the ground. Try to choose a spot you know is well protected from high winds. A shed or side of a house under an eave is a great spot.
  • Mason bees need mud clay to seal up the tubes once they are done laying eggs. Make sure to have a nearby source of mud clay within 20 feet of the house. If this isn’t naturally occurring in your garden, you can buy mud clay and dig a hole nearby to set it up.

Where to Find Mason Bees

It is important to note that you likely already have mason bees nearby! Sometimes, simply setting up the nest and providing the mud is enough to invite mason bees in the garden. Oh, and don’t forget the pollinator supporting plants! You may also choose to use a mason bee attractant spray, which uses pheromones to lure them to your nest. Crown Bee sells an attractant spray that you can find here. If you still are having a hard time finding mason bee cocoons, Crown Bee provides loose-cell cocoons by region. This is an excellent way to start your mason bee nest with confidence that you have quality cocoons.

Where to Find Mason Bee Houses

There are many mason bee houses on the market – some better than others. A few things to keep in mind – you will want to be able to have access to the blocks and/or bamboo reeds to clean them out at the end of the year. Therefore, if the nesting materials cannot be removed, they will present problems in the future. If you choose to use a block, you will want to use one that can be disassembled to allow you access to the cocoons in the fall. You can find a great example here.

There are lots of options out there, including ones you can make yourself! If you’re looking for a fun DIY project, you can get some inspiration here.

Mason Bee House

Inviting mason bees in the garden is not only a way to help pollinate your plants, but also to help support your native pollinators. As our environments become more manicured, cultivated and curated, we lose the wild nature that supports the pollinators – that in turn support us. Let us rewild our gardens and share our space with these gentle creatures!

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