Friday, March 5, 2010
Bees - Osmia
While we wait for Janet's chicks to arrive, I'll tell you about my bees. Two years ago when trying to get the vegetable garden organized we had real trouble with the squash for lack of pollination. Flower after flower fell off and no fruit. So, it seemed clear. If we were going to have a successful garden we would need to address the pollination issue.... so that meant learning about bees.
There are many kinds of bees. Guess what! There are many kinds of solitary (not hive) bees that live in total bliss flying from flower to flower for the mere pleasure of procreating yet another generation of pollinators. Forget the hive, honey, queen bee, worker bees etc. etc. These solitary bees sound like my kind of bee: Low maintenance.
So, I learned about the Mason bee, of which, again, there are many types. I'll let you all do the Google search to learn more.
Short story: I settled on the Osmia lignaria, otherwise known as the Blue Orchard Bee or BOB!
Cute and native, a very important consideration. Of course, I was figuring this out in 2008 and by January of 2009 realized that I was out of luck to do anything constructive for that spring. This is also an aspect of learning about nature: Sometimes nature's cycle cannot be adapted to our convenience. Whoa! Did I really say that?
The picture above shows the natal bee tubes on the bottom shelf that I put out two weeks ago and something is starting to happen. I've actually got two types of bees. On the left are the tubes for the that come out as early spring pollinators. On the right are the Osmia californica that some out later and pollinate into the summer. Both are native to California. In between is just crumpled newspaper to hold the tubes in place. These are solitary but convivial bees and are happy to work side-by-side with others doing the same. One can just make out where some of the mud plugs have come out. Two plugs lie on the shelf in front. I haven't actually spotted any bees yet. Bummer, but they must be around. The Mason bees are black or dark blue. Of course the males come out first and get themselves ready for the females. Hmmm... The idea is that the females will come back and lay fertilized eggs in the cells of the above unit. THEN there should be lots of activity to photograph. I cross my fingers.