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Supporting native bumblebees and mason bees

The hardest worker you'll find at our farm is no bigger than your thumb. The humble bee. Every single berry you find in the field wouldn't be there if it weren't for our pollinators. We understand the significance of our native pollinators and appreciate all the hard work they provide us. In return, we strive to "pay" them for all their hard work by giving them food and shelter.

In May, blueberry flowers provide an abundance of nectar and pollen for bumblebees, but these pollinators also need food from early spring through the summer. We have planted native plant hedges that flower when the field is not in bloom. Osoberry and red-flowering currants bloom in March and April, while elderberry and oceanspray bloom in June and July. We also grow sunflowers and dahlias that provide bee food in July and August (while adding color for our blueberry pickers). Providing nectar and pollen for the bees encourages them to stay at the farm and to continue future generations of bees.

The mason bee (a gentle native bee who rarely stings) makes natural nests in narrow dry wood cracks and broken off hollow branches. However, mason bees can easily be encouraged to stay in artificial housing - such as deep holes drilled into a block of wood, bamboo sticks, or paper straws. An egg is laid deep in the holes and along with collected pollen are deposited for sustenance. The chamber is then sealed with a mixture of mud and plant fibers. The bee then deposits another egg and pollen ball in front of the chamber and seals that chamber off. The process continues until the last chamber is flush with the outer edge of the wood. The following spring the new bees chew through the mud doors and emerge from holes. Mason bees are great pollinators and come in a range of sizes. So when making a bee block, use different drill bits sizes. The range of mason bee sizes can amaze you. Although mason bees can be bought in stores, mason bees are likely found in any place with flowers and will start (and continue) to use a bee block once they find it.

The mason bee blocks require yearly maintenance and should be cleaned to reduce the build up of mites, fungus, and parasitic wasps, which take advantage of the mason bees. Cleaning can be done by using paper straws, which are disposed of once the bees hatch, or the holes can be redrilled to remove old mud. Add new bee blocks each year to support the growing population of mason bees.

To learn more about our native bumblebees and mason bees, check out two books by Brian L. Griffin: Humblebee Bumblebee and The Orchard Mason Bee for more extensive information on these beneficial bees.

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Fuzzy-horned bumblebee
 Mason bee
Bee food
Yellow-faced bumblebee
Yellow-headed bumblebee

Linbo Blueberry Farm
1201 South Fruitland
Puyallup, WA 98371