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The Purpose of Spring Mason Bees

The spring blue orchard and hornfaced bee’s purpose is quite simple:

  1. To be one of the first emerging bees in spring, just in time to coincide with early blooming fruit and nut trees.
  2. To gather pollen/nectar for the eggs that they lay in holes.

No honey making, no swarming; just each female gathering pollen/nectar on her own and laying her own eggs in her own hole.

What makes mason bees such good pollinators?

  • Mason bees are very productive pollen gatherers. They carry pollen on the underside of their abdomen and then scrape the pollen off within their nesting hole. Because the pollen is carried dry on their hair, it is more easily transferred, resulting in significantly more pollinated flowers than their cousin, the honey bee, who wet the pollen they carry on their legs.

  • Honey bees assume different roles in their six week life.  One role is to be a pollen gatherer, and a different role is to gather nectar. As a result, the honey bee enters a flower differently depending on what she is gathering.  Each flower visited isn’t necessarily pollinated.  Mason bees gather both pollen and nectar in their flower visits.  It is estimated that over 97% of the flowers visited by a mason bee are pollinated.  Roughly one foraging female mason bee is equivalent to one hundred foraging honey bees.
  • Mason bees are less selective of where they gather their pollen from. They have a strong preference for Rosaceae flowers like many fruit and nut trees but will visit many spring-blooming pollen-loaded flowers within a 200-300 foot (60-90 m) circle around their nesting hole. They are fantastic pollinators of spring fruit and nut trees.
  •  The Japanese hornfaced bee was introduced to North America in 1984, and is now considered “naturalized”.  Meaning, for all practical purposes, they live natively throughout most of the central/eastern US.