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July 1, 2016

Mason bee on opening succulents

Mason bee on opening succulents

Mason bees are very helpful. These little dark-blue bees pollinate plants better than honeybees, but they are not very popular. Now some gardeners and farmers are taking a new look at mason bees.

The gentle mason bees are different from honeybees. They look like flies and don’t make honey or sting.

Mason bees do not live in a well-developed society like a hive. They live in mud nests in hidden places. And there is not just one fertile queen bee. In fact, every female mason bee is fertile and does the important work of pollination. The male only fertilizes eggs and dies.

The female mason bee collects pollen by moving from blossom to blossom. Pollen sticks to underbody hair. Some of the pollen reaches the nest, but much of it simply falls off her body among the flowers. This pollination method is effective.

Dave Hunter, owner of Crown Bees in Woodinville, is a big fan of mason bees. He says that one mason bee can pollinate twelve pounds of cherries. It would take 60 honeybees to do the same job.

Some gardeners, however, prefer honeybees because they reproduce often in warm weather. Mason bees only reproduce once and die quickly. “This can be controlled,” says Hunter. “Just keep the mason bees cool until they are needed.”

Developed by Ryoko Takahashi

Photographer: Christine Majul

Published July 2016

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