Cynthia’s Bees – Mason Bees and Leaf-Cutter Bees

  • Post published:06/02/2023
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Bee House

There is a lot of talk about honey bees in our part of town, but there are 4000 types of bees in the United States. Our friend Cynthia has been working with  two of those bee families – Mason bees and Leaf-cutters. Both of these bees are solitary bees.  Those bees are living on her porch, where my husband and I got to learn something about these bees.

Cynthia’s Bee House sits out on her porch, and doesn’t move it. The bees need to know exactly where they can come and go without confusion. The reeds are stacked up in the bee house and if you look carefully  you can see that some of the reeds are closed up.  Cynthia told us that her Mason bees ‘usually fly right to their spot’ but they can get confused from time to time. The reeds get plugged as the mason bees lay their eggs just like honeybees- sealing cells in the hive. Each one of the reeds can hold about 10 eggs of the mason bees.  The mason bee lives only for about one month, but the male dies shortly after mating.

When the leaf-cutters go into the reed holes, they go in ‘upside-down’ and their abdomens are often yellow, possibly from pollen. Cynthia explained that “the leaf-cutter will mix a part of leaf or petal with their saliva to plug their reed. She says the saliva of the leaf-cutter actually seals the leaf  so it doesn’t damage where the bee has chewed it.”

Cynthia has been enjoying her bees for  three years. When it is time to care for the last bees, in their reeds, and winter arrives she puts them in the refrigerator to keep them dormant. When it was warm enough outside in the spring she  would bring  them out of the refrigerator and warm them up for 2-3 weeks. “You know they have finally hatched because the plug is out of the reed and on the floor.” She told us she saw one wobbly staggering bee at the end of a reed, that she thought had just hatched. She picked it up and warmed it and off it went.

We sat with Cynthia and did watch a bee fly in – or out – while we learned quite a bit, and enjoyed a lot.

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