Mason bees might be better pollinators than honeybees!

If you didn’t have bad luck, you wouldn’t have any luck at all.

Someone posted this about our osprey nest camera blowing down again this year. We feel kind of the same way. This poor camera has been blown down, hasn’t had enough sun, and when the camera did work last year the osprey chicks blew out of the nest and died.

I guess that’s just dealing with Mother Nature.

If you want to see the osprey, we have the swan camera — mounted on the Dickinson County Nature Center — focused on the osprey nest from the side. At least we can tell they are happy and healthy, although we don’t have that great up-close view of the eggs. We will work on fixing the camera and getting it back up as soon as we can!

Photo of the osprey nest from the sideIn the meantime, I thought I would turn attention to our bees again. Yesterday, I was reading about mason bees, a genus of native bees, and today a volunteer had seen some mason bee homes and was asking about them. So let’s talk about that!

Mason bees are of the genus Osmia, and there are about 140 species of Osmia in North America. These bees are solitary bees, like most native bees, and take care of their own young. However, it does seem like they enjoy being around each other and will often build their nests near other mason bees.

Photo of a mason bee covered in pollen

Native bees nest in a variety of areas, from bare holes in the ground to hollow stems. People can easily provide habitat for native bees by drilling holes in tree cookies — slices of tree limbs or trunks — or by bundling together straws or different sizes of bamboo. The bees lay their eggs in these hollow spaces, provide pollen as a food source for the baby and then plug up the hole with chewed up plants or clay.

(Save the bees, save the world.)

Mason bees are wonderful to have around because they are fantastic pollinators. Instead of wetting pollen and putting it in pollen sacs like honeybees, mason bees are covered in hair that collects pollen as they move around, searching for nectar. They can certainly carry a lot of pollen.

Plus, native bees usually have stingers too small to penetrate human skin, so there’s nothing at all to worry about when having them hang around your home.

(Read five bee myths and truths here.)

Nectar relays

A fun game to play with your kids about bees is to host nectar relays. You can do this with your kids or bring in neighborhood children for even more fun.

What you’ll need:

Four or six glasses

Food coloring

Water

Flour

Two or three pipettes

Two or three pipe cleaners

Two or three paper plates cut out like flowers

Photo of kids by water glasses

Set out two or three flowers on the floor, or outside. For however many relay lines you want, rim that many glasses with flower — representing pollen. Then fill each of those glasses halfway full of colored water. Place the glasses on top of the flowers.

Use the pipe cleaners to make a set of wings on each pipette.

Set empty glasses across from the full glasses.

Kids will use the pipette to suck up the colored water — nectar — and then run to the other glass — representing another flower — to dispense the nectar there.

Photo of girl squirting colored water into a glass

You can have one child at each glass or lines of children doing a relay at each glass. Time the event to see who fills their second glass the most or keep it going to see who empties their first glass first!

The final key is, look at their pipettes. Are they covered in flour?

Photo of pipette in glass

They pollinated those flowers while looking for nectar and they didn’t even realize it!

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