Gardening where the sidewalk ends

Buzzing February 23, 2009

Filed under: fauna,garden shows — greenwalks @ 8:48 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

In these times of economic woe and gloom, many small businesses are taking a hit along with the big guys. I worry that a lot of the smaller gardening-related outfits are going to be struggling soon if they aren’t already. So it was with great delight that I saw this one booth at the NW Flower & Garden Show, The Beez Neez Apiary Supply, veritably buzzzzzzzing with customers. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

Jim and Rachel of Snohomish, WA are professional beekeepers and have everything you need to start keeping bees. They seemed to be having a great time at the show, happily fielding questions from wannabee (oh, sorry again!) apiarists and selling their wares.

Mason bee folks

City and suburb dwellers often feel most comfortable beginning with Mason bees, aka Osmia lignaria , who do not live in hives and are generally non-stinging. They help with pollination and are relatively easy to care for. My folks have a bunch at their place, to help with the apple orchard and berry patches. You can buy a cute little house like this:

Mason bee house

to attach to a tree in or near your garden. The bees fill the holes with mud and go about their solitary ways. It’s kind of like a little bee condo, or maybe a monestary dorm.  Or you can make your own bee house, if you are handy with drills and such. Here’s one plan from the National Wildlife Federation site. Here’s another one that uses mostly stuff you have around the house (except for maybe “bee straws,” which you can probably order from Jim and Rachel).

At first I thought someone had the nutty idea of putting bee sounds on a CD, maybe as a relaxation aid. Actually, I think that would be pretty cool. But it turned out to be a DVD instead, “All About Mason Bees,” by Dr. Margriet Dogterom, who is kind of the Queen Bee (agh! again with the bad bee jokes!) of the whole mason bee thing.

Mason Bee DVDs

She is often at the Garden Show representing her company, Beediverse,but I didn’t see her this time. Maybe she was just off touring the show gardens, flitting from flower to flower… okay, I’ll stop.

Have any of you tried your hand at beekeeping, or with opening up a guest house for Mason bees in particular?


20 Responses to “Buzzing”

  1. Melanthia Says:

    I missed this stand, but perhaps that was my internal safety valve … I’m allergic to these little guys. Also, I always see loads of bees around our yard and question the shortage. Do you know of any good sites to get info on this topic?

    • greenwalks Says:

      Melanthia – Sorry you are allergic to bees! Does that make gardening kind of scary in the summer? It would for me! You are brave. Not sure about the die-off, I think it’s real though. Here’s an article (have to scroll down) from the PNW Master Gardener Foundation’s site, I’d imagine they are pretty reliable:

  2. I’ve wanted honey bees for a long time, but haven’t been able to convince myself to get them (too many pets to care for all ready). But I did just put out a mason bee house a couple of days ago, so I’m hoping to see more and more in my garden.

    I think mason bees make their nests in fall, so I may not see them in great numbers until next spring, however…

    • greenwalks Says:

      Susan – Awesome that you put up a mason bee house. Did you make it? I’m going to guess that’s an affirmative… you make everything! Hope some straw-dwellers move in right away, maybe some lost their leases elsewhere and are looking for new digs.

  3. Michele Says:

    I’ve had mason bees for about 10 years and they are a fun project, even if you don’t have fruit trees. I switched to the stacked tray system (like Dr. Dogterom promotes) and I was my bees in the fall and everything. You just haven’t lived till you give a bee a bath!

    • greenwalks Says:

      Michele – I love it – bee baths! Too cute. I hope you will post pics of that someday. Do you put them in the fridge for the winter? My mom kind of balked at that.

  4. Michele Says:

    I meant to say “wash” that is!

  5. Catherine Says:

    We spent time at this stand and were very interested. I think it’s a great idea. My daughter made one at a birthday party years ago that had a garden theme. The bees found it right away. I think I’d like to try this again.

  6. Catherine Says:

    By the way, I think they sell these supplies (from Beez Neez) at Molbak’s .

    • greenwalks Says:

      Thanks for the tip, Catherine! I think a lot more people are interested in bees lately, since the fears of a honeybee die-off are seeming more real.

  7. jgh Says:

    Bees are on my list after chickens of animals I hope to have in the backyard one day. I should look into Mason bees. Lots of organic beekeeping workshops popping up around here. People even seem to be cultivating a taste for different varieties of honey.

    • greenwalks Says:

      Hi Jen – Oh, chickens, don’t get me started! I have major chicken envy but am too, well, chicken to try them. I don’t know if I could cope with the smelly poop and risk of death by dogs. I love tasting different types of honey – if you ever get a chance to try Leatherwood honey from Tasmania, do not hesitate. Indescribably delicious, like eating a jungle blossom.

  8. Megan Says:

    I love the idea but I’m afraid of them. But I’ll wholeheartedly encourage other people to keep bees.

    • greenwalks Says:

      Hi Megan – The male mason bees have no stingers and the females are supposed to be super mellow. My mom is terrified of yellow jackets (she has accidentally disturbed a few nests in the garden and has been stung a lot) but she has had mason bees for years with zero bites. Just sayin’.

  9. Philip Says:

    I would love to do this. I enjoyed your post and your bee humor. reading your post has put a bee in my bonnet to get started. I will make a bee-line for the products you mentioned.
    Ok, enough, I promise to beehave.

  10. Willi Says:

    I can’t believe I missed them at the Show! My friend Matt and I are getting a hive this summer and I would have loved to pick their brains.

    • greenwalks Says:

      Hi Willi – Thanks for visiting again. I’m sure you could call the Beez Neez folks at their shop in Snohomish, they seem like they are really helpful and friendly and know their bees! A hive in the city, eh? Are you gonna tell your neighbors or just see if they notice? A swarm escaped near us and ended up in the hawthorn tree across the street. I saw them arrive in a giant black cloud – it was pretty dramatic!

  11. Grace Says:

    Eleven years ago when we moved to our present house, these funny looking “flies” would buzz around every April and May. They’d bury themselves in whatever tiny orifice they could find. They never stung, they never swarmed. Weird. A few years later I learned about the mason bee and I still puff my chest a bit for their presence here at my humble estate without any manipulation on my part. Still, I’ve built them homes. I want to make things as comfortable as possible. To think I lived 40…ehem…years without knowledge of this flying friend.

    • greenwalks Says:

      Grace – That’s so cool that the mason bees came to you. Do you have a lot of fruit trees? Well, they might have gone away if you hadn’t been so hospitable. Nice of you to make them some spiffy digs.

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