Mason Bee Redux

Anyone whose talked to me lately knows that the mason bees didn't do too well this season. I seem to have lost my whole californica population, and I only have one straw of lignaria. What went wrong?
  • Unseasonal hot spell in January sped up emergence
  • Unprecedented deluges prevented nesting activity
In short, the bees emerged too early, but that wouldn't have been so bad if the rain hadn't killed them off.

I blame global warming. If you are one of those nitwits who denies that global warming is a real phenomenom (and caused by human activities), then toss off. But this isn't a rant against a hot globe, it is a discussion on how to do better next year.

Last year I over-wintered them in the shed, but it got too warm in there during the hot spell. I have two books on how to rear BOBs, one is very laissez-faire. Give 'em a home and let the bees be. This is the one I had tried this past season. The other is very scientific. Mortality rates, artificial over-wintering conditions, and parasite management are described in excruciating detail.

Next season I am going to do a little bit from column A and little bit from column B. BOBs have different stages: incubation/emergence, nesting, development, pre-wintering, and wintering. I'm going to artifically over-winter my bees this season (once I acquire new ones), so that they don't get too hot. It's only one stage, but it winds up being 6 months. Every other stage is going to be unmanaged.

The plan is to get a mini wine fridge with decent temperature controls and cool the bees at a constant 39°F for 180 days, starting in October (when they should all be adults happily wrapped in their cocoons). This should time the bees to emerge in April/May. I'll offset the californica by 4 weeks to get a May/June emergergence. If this technique works, then the following year I'll try for lignaria March/April and californica May/June (That way I get four months of bee zen!).

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