Mason bee

In a situation where information about the decreasing number of bee colonies come from all over the world for an unknown reason, we are looking for alternative solutions, i.e. Other animals that can effectively replenish the fauna that also pollinates our orchards. One of them is a red mason bee, also known as a lonely bee or loner (Osmia rufa L.).

The current systematics of the Osmia wall are as follows:

  • Kingdom: Zoa (Animalia) - Animals
  • Type: Metazoa (Eumetazoa) - Tissue
  • Type: Arthropoda - Arthropoda
  • Group: Insecta - Insects
  • Range: Hymenoptera - Hymenoptera Podrzęda:
  • In a row - Apocrita - Stylikówki (Group: Aculeata - Ndukiki)
  • Above the family: Apoidea - bees
  • Family: Megachilidae - Horned
  • Type: Osmia
  • Species: Osmia stern - Mason bee

The characteristic features of hymenoptera, including Mason, are: two pairs of membranous wings, mouth biting and licking instruments, transformation of holometabolism, larvae of all kinds, free chrysalis protected by cocoon.

In females, on the front plate there are two protruding cones, and in the facial part of the head - strongly built and toothed mandibles (this organ facilitates the efficient performance of masonry work). Mason bee live alone, but can create very large colonies under appropriate conditions. It does not produce honey on an economic scale. In Europe, it is mainly used for pollinating fruit trees. The ease of breeding makes shelter for many species of lonely wild bees (including mason bee) a decorative element of home gardens and botanical gardens, and their breeding can be considered as a pleasant hobby. As for the food base, Mason bee is a polyphagous. Her list of food plants includes about 150 species, including all species of fruit trees, currants, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, rape, vetch or nuns.

It occurs commonly in home gardens and orchards.

It nestles in rotten trees, wooden walls, beams, pillars or boughs, empty stems of plants (eg reeds, thistles). The nest is made of several to a dozen or so cells (breeding chambers), which are arranged one behind the other and separated from each other by earthen walls - baffles from the "mortar". In each cell the female collects a portion of the food, then folds the egg and closes it. The entrance hole after completing the egg laying process is closed with an earth wall. Mason bee accumulate in one cell about 200 mg of pollen mixed with nectar. To provision one breeding chamber, the female performs around 40 flights, visiting 1200 flowers. One female, even in difficult weather conditions, assumes on average five breeding chambers, for provision of which she performs 200 flights, thus pollinating 6,000 flowers. In good weather conditions, one female usually assumes 15 breeding chambers (which equals 18,000 pollinated flowers).

The life cycle of this common species is not complicated. Mason bee flights from the beginning of April to the end of June. Males fly out of their nests a few days earlier than females, but their flight time is much shorter than females and takes only three weeks. The lifespan of females is about 7-8 weeks. The females, after leaving the nest, mate with several males, and after inseminates start to build a nest, collect nectar and pollen, and lay eggs. After reproduction, females die. A few days after the cells are closed, the larvae hatch from the eggs, which feed on the food stored in the cell, spin the covers and in September they pupate. They spend the winter in an imaginal (adult) form in the rules. In the spring they fly out and repeat the one-year life cycle. The economic use of mason bee is partly due to its universality as a pollinator, as well as the high efficiency of pollination of most horticultural plants. The effectiveness of pollination of apple blossoms is as high as that of honeybees. The weight of fruit when pollinated with a brick mason and honey bee is comparable. In the orchards in which its nests are displayed, all grooming work can be performed without fear of a sting. It is successfully used to pollinate horticultural plants cultivated under cover, as it is easily accustomed to new conditions, quickly takes up work on flowering plants and has peaceful behavior. In greenhouse conditions and with a sunny sky, mason bee are active for about 14 hours during the day.

In Mason bee, the height of placing cocoons and nest materials plays a minor role - they nest both at a height of 1 m above the ground and in nests located at the level of the third floor. An important role is to protect it from rain and preserve the right exhibition. Mason bee, like other bees, are "children of the sun". The direction of setting the nest materials prepared for it is directly related to the lighting of the outlet channels, reheating the location of nests and the activity of bees, especially in the early morning and evening. The outlets leading to the sockets should therefore be directed to the south-east, south or south-west. Avoid exposing sockets in cold and damp places. The most important biological features and functional values of the  mason bee are:

  • biological activity in the period of the highest demand for pollinating insects,
  • natural inclination to create colonies and attachment to the place of nesting,
  • ease of occupying artificially prepared sockets,
  • gentle nature and total lack of aggressiveness (mason bee don't defend nests and even in the case of close contact with people is not aggressive),
  • wide food preferences,
  • high efficiency of pollination of plants,
  • ability to work in foil tunnels,
  • small distance of flights for food (up to 300 m from nests).

Culture patch are used for breeding masonry. Nest tubes are best placed in roofed crates to protect them from rain and moisture. In the place of cultivation, which the bees are supposed to oblate, nesting tubes are attached to trees in such a way that they are not exposed to wind gusts, or placed on prepared stands for this purpose. Height is of no importance, but it is important to direct the outlets. Socket pipes can be settled in two ways:

in places of natural aggregations of masonry (most often on the southern walls of buildings, wooden barns), when the first plants are blooming, previously prepared nest material is exposed;

the second way is to buy the cocoons of this bee. Masonry cocoons protected against moisture and birds are exposed in the immediate vicinity of the nesting tubes also after the first plants have bloomed.

The sockets should be protected against insectivorous birds, such as tits and woodpeckers, during bee flights. For this purpose, a net is used. All the time care should be taken to ensure that the nests do not become damp, because excessive humidity can lead to masonry diseases. After the flight of masonry flights, the socket tubes can be protected with fine mesh, which also protects against birds of prey and small rodents (eg kunami), but also limits access to nests for other insects and parasites. In the autumn you can move the socket pipes to a clean and dry room, where the temperature is similar to that in the natural environment, or protected from moisture in the place of their stationing.

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