To Bee or Not to Bee - that is the pest question?
Posted on 19th April 2020 at 11:00
Its spring and in the pest control calendar we’re just about to see the wasps appear, one little insect that gets confused by both professional pest controllers and the general public alike is the mason bee or as its commonly referred to the masonry bee.
These harmless but extremely important pollinators emerge in early spring and begin foraging for the foodstuffs that will be used to rear their young: bee bread. Bee bread is, as you’d imagine with anything to do with bees, simply a form of ‘super-food’; this is flower pollen mixed with bee saliva, proteins from the surface of the flowers and nectar. These remarkable insects form the base of a massive food chain that supports most life on planet earth and its often reported that without bees, mankind has just four years left to live.
We’ve written this blog to answer some of the questions and direct people to a knowledge base site of information; we will not carryout treatments for bees especially the humble mason bees and it breaks my heart to think that people in our industry are happy to exterminate these insects for such a short term financial gain.
Without bees we don’t exist!
Ashy mining Bee
Yellow legged mining bee
Earley mining bee
Grey patched mining bee
We see the females in the springtime, and they emerge in their thousands, you’ll often see clouds of bees flying in endless circles around a patch of dry ground or around a section of old crumbly wall. They are simply packing bee bread into the nesting cavities that they have created or have inherited. Its worth noting that bee and wasp behaviour is very different, bees have a very different outlook on life to wasps and that apparent about how they travel.
When you see an active wasps’ nest, the workers rush in and out on direct flight paths rather like a commercial airport. I see wasps as stroppy, straightforward “get in my face and you’ll regret it” types whilst bees are much more laid back and easy-going insects, and this is evident in how they fly. Wasps – straight in and out “We’re busy!” whilst bees hang about socialising outside the colony “Hey, you’re never guess what flower I found” sort of thing.
Chocolate mining bee
Common mourning bee
Bilberry mining bee
Red mason bee
Mason bees are busy but without an entire colony to build and defend they are more easy going; place you finger near the entrance to the bee’s burrow and it will fly away from you; don’t try that with wasps!
The female mason bee will pack the chamber with a mixture of bee bread and egg cells with the female eggs laid first so that these will be the last to emerge in the autumn. This process continues one after another; they don’t have a single nest or colony to defend so there’s no aggression. This bee has just a few weeks to live so she’s busy doing her best to ensure that the next population has everything it needs to see a healthy brood come out later in the year.
The larvae hatch and stay put safe in their cell eating the food left their by the bee that we saw flying to and fro throughout the spring, eventually the larvae will pupate into another species of mason bee, ready to continue the cycle in the early autumn.
Blue mason bee
The two coloured mason bee
Short fringed mining bee
When this moment arrives, the males will leave the brood chamber first, flying off to feed and in turn pollinate. These bees are that effective that a single mason bee can pollinate an entire apple tree on its own; what’s more colder, wet days don’t deter these bees like it does with the honeybee, they really are the grafters of the bee world.
Many people will have noticed that these bees, although solitary, prefer to nest in an area together and although the bees use natural cavities, bee nesting boxes are commercially available. If you purchase a bee box for hygiene reasons these should be taken down and washed through every season after use to prevent the build-up of parasites.
These bees are gentle creatures that benefit mankind enormously; they do have a stinger, but it is un-barbed (so will not break off in our skin like the bumblebee) and it possess little venom. These bees cannot hurt us they can only benefit us so please do not kill or ask a pest controller to kill these; it’s totally unnecessary.
A newly hatched bay - bee(?) emerging from a bee house
The UN released a statistic that 40% of pollinators are in danger of becoming extinct and we can help these bees and in turn help ourselves with the introduction of a Mason Bee House into our garden. A warm sunny spot that picks up the early rays of the sun is the ideal spot for your bee house; somewhere away from bird boxes as the birds and the bees don’t mix.
An easterly facing wall is ideal at about head height, female mason bees use sight markers to find their nest hole so don’t make the house uniform, the more haphazard the better.
We do not treat these types of bee's - this is a visual guided to help you identify whether this is a potential pest or not. These bees will seldom sting and if they are provoked to that point this is not painful.
Tagged as: Wasps, bee's and hornets
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