Mason Bee Cocoons – The Gardener’s Ally

Mason bee cocoons can be collected from a variety of mason bee houses or hives, this being a very important step because of the high potential of pollination even a small number of mason bees has over fruit and nut trees, berries and flowers.

Harvesting mason bee cocoons is not a hard task because just a single mason bee queen can lay up to 35 eggs during her six weeks lifespan.

mason bee cocoon

mason bee cocoon

Why should we collect mason bee cocoons

Leaving the cocoons in the mason bee houses or hives overwinter is not beneficial for the bees.

In time, if the cocoons are not collected, they accumulate parasitic mites and if the houses and hives are not cleaned each season, they become prone to fungal disease.

Some people raise mason bees in solid wooden blocks with holes in them, but the problem is that you don’t have access to the mason bee cocoons and you can’t clean the habitat.

It is recommended that mason bees should be raised in houses and hives that come apart so that you can clean the holes and cocoons at the end of summer, which will help you to exponentially increase the number of mason bees.

What to do with the harvested cocoons?

With the cocoons we have collected from our mason bee houses and hives we must first separate them from the debris, mud, and dirt.

Then we put all of our cocoons in a container half filled with water and we gently wash them so that the rest of debris and mud sinks to the bottom of the container.

Do not worry, the cocoons aren’t fragile and are waterproof, so the bees will not be harmed in any way.

Also, the cocoons that do not float can be thrown away because this means that something is wrong with the cocoon.

After we are done washing them, we scoop them out of the container and we put the cocoons on a paper towel.

When the cocoons have dried, you can put them in a sifter and agitate it so that any remaining parasitic mites drop through the sifter.

mason bee cocoons

mason bee cocoons

How should we store the mason bee cocoons?

The cocoons can be safely deposited in a plastic bag or a small plastic container, both with wholes so that the bees can breath.

The plastic bag can then be placed in the refrigerator, where they can be stored until spring.

Storing the cocoons in a refrigerator at a constant temperature ensures that the bees don’t emerge from their cocoons too early when they can’t find enough pollen and nectar.

Also it is important that we put a little piece of cotton with a few drops of water on it, inside the plastic bag or container so that the bees don’t get deshidratated.

When should we release our mason bees?

We should keep the mason bee cocoons in the refrigerator until spring arrives and fruit trees start to blossom.

The mason bees should be released only when we are sure that the cold weather has passed and there is n danger for the mason bees to remain without pollen or nectar.

It is recommended that we put the mason bee cocoons in a dry cardboard box and we seal it, making a hole  on the side, through which the mason bees may fly beginning their lifecycle.

mason bee

mason bee

The benefits of using this method

  • by collecting, cleaning, and storing mason bee cocoons you can grow a large number of healthy mason bees;
  • you have complete control upon the release of the mason bees for the benefit of your garden or orchard;
  • mason bees have a high pollinating potential, just one mason bee pollinates as much as 100 honeybees;
  • a fruit tree can be pollinated by only 6 mason bees, while it takes approximately 10.000 honeybees to do the same job;
  • mason bees are non-aggressive, they will almost never sting and even when they do, the sting is equivalent to a mosquito bite;
  • the whole process described in this article is fun to do with the help of family members and kids;
  • by raising mason bees we are taking an active role in the fight for a healthy environment.


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