Mason bees are one of the smallest and earliest bees out in the spring to begin pollination. Also known as Blue Orchard bees, they are native to North America. They are gentle bees unless you step on them or squeeze them (not and advised action with ANY bee!)
They make their mud homes in the small holes that have been hollowed out in wood by other wood-boring insects. Mason bees do not have hives, make honey or have workers. They are solitary and every female is fertile (just like the queen be in a regular hive).
In the spring, after males and females mate, the females begin collecting pollen and nectar from plants and pack it in the holes they find for homes. They rarely fly more than 300 yards away from their chosen home. They lay a first set of eggs with the food stored. The bee then packs it with mud and starts gathering a second supply of nectar and pollen. She then lays a second set of eggs with the second supply food and covers the hole with mud. The eggs laid first will be the female bees and the eggs laid last will become the male bees that will emerge the following spring.
They can tolerate very cold temperatures! You can help these bees by creating your own home for them. You can find homes to purchase at many gardening outlets, but it’s easy to do with a wood block! Here is how:
Using a 5/16th drill bit take some scrap UNTREATED 4 x 4″ lumber and drill holes approx. 3 1/2 inches deep but not all the way through the wood block. Place a roof on it to help protect the mud openings. Securely place the bee house on the south side of buildings, fence posts, or trees. It is important to NOT move bee houses after they are in place until at least November. DO NOT spray insecticides on or around bee houses.
Your house would look something like this that one of our club members made!
Because these bees are very susceptible to certain pests and diseases, if you make your own wood block nest you should replace it yearly to not allow the build-up of diseases in the holes.