Hey everybody, Tiffany from Quick and Dirty Gardens here. Today we're going to be harvesting mason bee cocoons. The reason we're doing this is because creating a monoculture of mason bees in your garden can attract predators and pests. So, we're going to clean out the good cocoons and throw away the bad stuff, and store the cocoons over winter so they'll be ready to put out in the spring.
Mason bees are incredible pollinators. They pollinate far more thoroughly than honey bees do. Mason bees are covered in fuzzy hairs that collect and distribute tons of pollen with they belly flop onto flowers. When honey bees collect pollen they get it wet and pack it onto their thighs like little pollen pants. When they travel from flower to flower, they don't spread as much pollen.
Mason bees are considered gentle bees because they don't have a queen or hive to defend so they have no reason to sting. Apparently their sting is equivalent to a mosquito bite.
Harvesting mason bees is super easy. You just need a few things: a little container like a baking sheet to catch your cocoons so they don't roll off the table, a screwdriver to get them out of their little wood pallets, and a colander so we can rinse them off.
If you're harvesting wood blocks use the screwdriver to dislodge the cocoons from the rows. They are tougher than you think! If you're harvesting paper tubes soak them in bucket of water to soften the tubes, they will open much easier.
Place your cocoons in a colander and spray them off with the shower setting on your garden hose. Remove any pests or non-viable cocoons.
Dry the cocoons either naturally in the sun or you can place them in a mesh bag and hang them in front of a gentle fan.
I store my clean and dry cocoons in the refrigerator vegetable drawer in a cardboard tube from a toilet paper roll that is stapled shut on each side. I learned this technique from an orchardist and long term mason bee keeper. You can also purchase bee humidifiers from local mason bee suppliers like Crown Bees.
Once the spring temperatures are hovering above 55 degrees (Fahrenheit) you can place your cocoons outside in their home to start the cycle all over!
Please let me know if you have any questions, I love to talk about mason bees.