Thursday, October 17, 2013

Pollinator Thursday: Unexpected Guests

One morning in March I found a cute little bee wandering around the window in my office. I couldn't figure out how it got in the house. The temperature outside was still cold. Bumblebees sometime leave their burrows in late January or early February, fooled by a few warm days. These are the ones I find dead on the sidewalk.

The little bee didn't fly; it walked in circles on the window.  I considered rigging up some kind of habitat for it until the weather warmed but I didn't know how to raise it. I put it in a protected spot in the garden and wished it well.

We went to Vancouver for the weekend. When I entered my office on Monday there were three of the little bees walking around the window. What the heck? These little ones also showed no interest in flying. They walked around the window all day.  In the evening they huddled together in a window corner.

The next day I put a little honey on the window thinking maybe they didn't have enough energy to fly. One of the bees lapped up the sweetness, the others didn't. Still no flying. I did a little internet research and found out they were mason bees.

I have often considered raising mason bees. This involves providing little tubes, either rolled paper, bamboo pieces or holes drilled in wood. I've never done it for two reasons: one is the time required to make the nest, two, it must be cleaned after use to prevent parasites and disease. This is the same reason I no longer have bird feeders but plant seed-bearing plants instead. Bird feeders have to be cleaned regularly and the seed picked up to prevent disease and rodents. Even if I wanted to spend time doing that, it is the kind of thing I easily forget.

Mason bees lay eggs in cavities and seal the opening with mud. In the early spring (so they were right on time) they bust out the seal and fly to the sky. I gathered the little bees and grabbed my camera to take their pictures outside. As soon as I lifted the cover, one flew off. I was only able to take one picture before the others went.

Looking on the outside of the window I saw a little patch of mud. The windows have a drainage hole on each side. The mama mason bee must have used one of the holes for egg-laying. Instead of pushing out the mud plug, little bees made their way through the channels of the window, probably attracted by the light in the room.

I felt blessed to play hostess. How did they know  I love bees?

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