Asked April 25, 2019, 2:06 AM EDT

Hello, It’s my first year and attempt as an urban mason bee keeper. I purchased the Mason bee house and the cocoons. In a matter of a day, One of my queens has laid eggs in an electric box. (See photo) Can I or should I remove the cocoons and place them in the mason bee house? If so when? Any advice how to remove it?

Washington County Oregon

4 Responses

Thanks for your question. It’s a doozy! If you can avoid using this electrical outlet until October, which is the standard amount of time for cocoon development, and then remove them, your bees will have the best chance for life. It takes this long for the eggs to develop into cocoons. Ideally, you would just leave them until they emerge in early spring, but you’ll have to protect the ground plug from being used, by putting tape over it. (That will protect the eggs and cocoons from bird predation, as well.) As to cocoon removal prior to their normal emergence, my husband-the-engineer says the space is inaccessible from the back, were you to remove the plug from the wall. So, you’re going to be in the same pickle you are now. Sorry for no ‘magic bullets!’ Welcome to the Wonderful World of Wildlife!

Thank you so much for your response.
Since it’s not my only outdoor outlet I’ve chosen cover the outlet and to wait until Spring when they hatch.
Which brings me to my next question.
Why are my queens laying elsewhere?
i bought a locally made Mason House (see photo).
I have dedicated my yard to pollinators. Planting flowers, shrubs, trees that attract pollinators. I have a fountain/bird bath for water. I don’t use chemicals, I use organic or all natural fertilizers.
I have ample amounts of clay in the soil and have left a nice supply near the bee house up until yesterday there has been NO activity in the bee house.
So where are my bees? Is there something I can do to draw them back?
I notice I have one spot where a Queen has laid eggs. Any advice is much appreciated

Thanks for the update. I had the same experience the first 2 years I had a similar structure. First, remember that several (2-6) females all will have emerged from the same nest. They are very territorial, and will fight with each other over use of the tube. So, none have called it ‘home’ before, and may return to another site. Second, there may be smells, from varnish or oils, that have not yet dissipated. They are very sensitive to odors. Third, it may be badly located. It needs morning sun, but can’t get so hot in the afternoon that the eggs will roast. Locating it under an eave on the southeast corner of a structure is the ideal spot. Yours appears too ‘out there,’ and the final mud wall will be susceptible to rain, which can wash it away and expose the cocoons. I have had several nests in the wooden patio table, where bolts were drilled in. The table is under cover, so no water can reach them. But I now have 2 man made nests, the second of which has a variety of sizes of tubes. For the first year, I have never seen so many bees! (There are probably some robber wasps there, too, laying their eggs in the Mason bee apartments—but not harming the Mama Mason bees or her offspring.) Hope this is helpful. Good luck!

I missed this when it was broadcast, but you might be interested in this great OPB piece on Mason bees: The Mama Mason bee isn’t the queen bee. She’s solitary and has no help to preserve the species, unlike honey bees (imported to North America 400 years ago). I hope you enjoy learning about them!