Sunday, May 28, 2017

To Bee or Not to Bee

Every year, long about in February, I start to think about keeping bees. I google a few kinds of hives: Kenyan top bar? Flow hive? Occasionally I even take a book out of the library before I remember: oh yeah. This is a shit ton of work. You have to clean the hive. You have to inoculate the bees. You have to treat for mites. You get propolis all over everything. And that's before you think about harvesting the honey. I'd probably have to take an extension course.

I'm not really up for a shit ton more work, or spending my little disposable income on a class. I like honey but not that much. I'm more interested in supporting pollinators.

In my annual internal soliloquy - to bee or not to bee? - this year I discovered the perfect compromise: mason bees! These are tiny native bees, about the size of houseflies, but they are power-pollinators: they 4 -5 times more efficiently than their non-native cousins the honeybees.

They are also a lot less work. Basically make a suitable home for them, and they take care of themselves. There are supplies you can buy - paper tubes to go in the holes, to make cleaning the nest out easier - but I went with basic this year. They want holes, preferably facing south or east, and tehy want a source of mud (I can do that - I'm a potter!!) They want some protection from rain and wind. The holes I drilled are a little shallow, probably only about 4 inches; apparently 5 or 6 is better, to protect against the predation of woodpeckers.

A 5-16th inch drill bit works best. Wood should be untreated.
I knew I was keeping those old license plates around for a reason. 
It turns out I may be a bit late for my little friends this season - everything I am reading is that they make their nests while the trees are blooming, which is late March & April here. But maybe we'll get a late bloomer or two! In any case, if they have need of a home it'll bee here. 😉

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