A solitary bee, native to North America, the mason bee is a bit smaller than a honeybee and is recognized as an effective pollinator. Like most bees, mason bees feed on the nectar of flowers, and are especially attracted to fruit blossoms, which makes them a excellent fruit pollinator. There is growing interest in domesticating them for pollination in commercial orchards. Although primarily western, they are seen throughout northern USA and southern Canada.
Blue orchard bees have attracted a lot of attention, and have the potential of replacing honeybees as the most important fruit tree pollinator. Orchard mason bees are hard working, adapted to a cool climate and can fly in chilly, even drizzly weather. Thus, they are often busy pollinating when honeybees remain inside the hive. Non-aggressive, and not likely to sting, these bees are ideal to control for pollination uses.
Mason bees build their nests in already existing holes, so it is fairly easy for beekeepers to build artificial homes to accommodate them. These bees are called “mason” because they partition off and close up their nests with mud. The eggs are laid inside the hole and usually male eggs are placed closer to the entrance. Male eggs hatch faster than the females and will thus be more accessible to possible predators. 1
- “Mason Bees.” National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service. http://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/nativebee.html#mason