This year we have become Bee Guardians. A few weeks ago we took delivery of a batch of Red Mason bee cocoons.
Red Mason bees are excellent pollinators for fruit trees, as we have 5 apple and 2 pear cordon trees in the Friends’ Garden they should be great for helping our fruit crop. As the bees don’t sting , we are happy to work in the Garden alongside them.
The Red Mason bee is a solitary, aerial nesting bee. After mating each female bee builds her own nest, this may be in crumbling mortar joints in walls, hollow plant stems or even key holes. We have provided our bees with two artificial nests. These are small cardboard tubes held in short lengths of pipe mounted on poles in the sunniest part of the garden.
Last week some of our helpers placed the cocoons in the release boxes and now that the weather has warmed up the bees should start emerging from their cocoons.
Once she has chosen her nest site the female starts to build a cell using small balls of mud which she carries back to the nest. When the cell is ready she carries in pollen which has collected on hairs on her body when she visited flowers to feed on their nectar. She brushes off the pollen in the cell and lays an egg on top of it then seals the cell with more mud. Gradually she will fill the tube with more cells, when the last cell is complete she will leave a small gap then add a thicker mud wall to seal the cavity and help prevent predation of the eggs and larvae.
When the eggs hatch the larvae start to feed on the pollen and nectar in their cells, once they have consumed all the food they spin a cocoon and enter the pupal stage. The pupae develop into adult bees during the autumn and the bees overwinter in their cocoons until the following spring.
As Bee Guardians we will return our nest tubes to the supplier in late summer. The cocoons will be cleaned then stored in ideal conditions during the winter. Next March cocoons more will be sent to us and the cycle will start again.
Thanks to Dacorum Borough Council’s Clean Safe and Green team who financed our guardianship and installed the bee nests for us.
Jonathan Davis, the Water Garden’s head gardener and some enthusiastic helpers.