Red mason bees are very productive pollinators of fruit trees, so much so that six can do the same work as 340 honey bees!
Red Mason Bee
For this reason, ensuring that your orchard has the correct habitat for red masons may be more important than having a honey beehive.
Red masons can do the work of 340 honey bees
Red masons usually nest in old plant stems, which is why bamboo sticks and twigs are staples in insect hotels.
These nest boxes are great to have in your garden, and particular species of bees have preferences on what materials you use.
Due to the life cycle of red masons, they prefer longer tubes of about 160mm. Unlike bumblebees, the male red mason hatches first from a plant matter tube filled with individual cells. The males are at the front and the females at the back. A shorter tube reduces the number of female eggs laid.
Not long after hatching, the mating begins and can last up to 10minutes. Once mated, the female bees collect mud and start to create cells filled with nectar and pollen within empty tubes, to feed the sealed egg.
Unlike honey bees, male red mason bees get to enjoy life after mating into the Spring.
With small bodies covered in hair, these bees dart from blossom to blossom, getting covered in dusty pollen and effectively pollinating the fruit trees as they go.
Red mason bees are unable to fly as far as honey bees, (½ km a day, as opposed to 10) so habitat and forage are essential for their survival. A muddy bank of a stream, thistles and bramble stems, bee hotels, a supply of fruit blossom and cranesbill can all be a tasty treat.
Wednesday the 20th of May marks #WorldBeeDay, a United Nations initiative to raise awareness of the importance of pollinators!
Keep an eye out for plenty of bee-related content over the next few days, and join the Candide Garden Club on Tuesday to learn more about gardening for bees.
Have you seen many bees yet? Share your bee photos using the hashtag #WorldBeeDay
First published in May 2019