The Bee Corner

by Lisa Linderman on March 21, 2009

in bees,orchard mason bees,photos

Bee things proceed apace! This week, I went out and purchased two large wooden planters for my “Bee Garden”. Ordinarily I would put the plants directly into the ground, but I’m not entirely sure where I want these plants to wind up in the eventual garden scheme. So rather than transplant them one or more times, I decided to just put them in a container which I can move around the yard for a season or three before settling them into their final location.

The above planter contains three of my “bee attractive” plants. The large one with the white bell flowers is a Pieris japonica, which will eventually get quite large and definitely need a permanent spot in the yard. (The largest one I’ve seen reached up to the roof of the nearby house.) The smallish broadleaf in the front is a Helleborous niger, also called Lenten rose or just plain hellebore. It blooms in the late winter and often continues to do so through spring. The pinkish one on the right is English heath, which most of us just call heather.

The above planter here shows a dwarf Pieris japonica, together with a pink flowering Viburnum, which will also definitely need a permanent spot in the ground eventually. The Viburnum has the added bonus of bird-attracting berries later in the year.

In finding a spot for my Mason bees, I examined the entire yard. It’s best to give Mason bees a spot where they catch early morning sun so that they can warm quickly and get on with their work of pollinating; Mason bees cannot fly until they warm their bodies up to approximately 55 degrees Farenheight. I do have some walls that catch morning sun, but because of the orientation of my house and garage, and the placement of some large trees, I don’t have a place on a building that both gets early sun and retains it for more than a couple of hours. So, I’m trying what is admittedly a bit of an experiment. I built a tall “faux wall” out near the greenhouse, and mounted the bee houses on it. It has an overhang to protect from the worst rain, and a little shelf under it for the bees to hang out and warm up after emerging from the block.

It’s not advised to hang bee houses on fences or trees, so I have no idea how well this will work. I know the bees won’t get the added bonus of a large, warmed structure behind them for additional heat, but they do have the height and the open flight path that would be afforded by a wall.

This picture is of the Wall O’ Bees. You’ll note my three bee blocks look kind of lonely and helter-skelter…the hope is that in future years I’ll need to install more blocks for a growing horde of bees. Left side is the Mason bee house, empty and waiting. Middle is a smaller block for Aphid eating wasps. I haven’t got many plants in the yard that attract aphids right now, so I don’t know if I have a wild population of wasps or not. The right side is a Leafcutter bee house. In front of the entire operation I’ve stapled black bird netting; I realized that by placing these on a board with a nice landing pad in front, I’d basically created a diner for my downy woodpeckers, flickers, and jays. Right now the tube of hibernating bees is still in my refrigerator, though I will be putting it out in the next day or two as the Bee Plants open up.

With all of this preparation, the goal is to have a colony of Mason bees established for next spring. I’m in the middle of selecting fruit tree and berry varieties for planting in the next few weeks, with an eye towards the first real harvest being next year. One thing that’s true for gardening; it can be an exercise in long-term planning!

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