Follow our progress running the nursery, watching wild bees, keeping honey bees and creating our own bee-haven in south Oxfordshire

Cleaning the solitary bee cocoons

Mason bee nesting back in May

Mason bee nesting back in May

This is a lovely October job. Tube-nesting solitary bees, such as red mason bees have a tough start life and a bit of TLC might just improve thier survival rates.

They start as an egg layed on a bed of pollen and safely sealed into a section of thier nest tube by mud. They will eat the pollen and evolved into a lavae that will then create a cocoon around itself to insulated it right through the winter will they are ready to emerge in spring.

Not only do they have to survive very cold and wet weather but they are also commonly predated by mites, spiders and also a variety of different solitary wasp lavae that may have been sneaked into the same tube when mum wasnt watching.

For the first time this year I have had red mason bees nesting in a box where I can follow the expert advice and remove them, clean them and store them in the fridge till spring. If I do this right then a much greater proportion of them such survive to become adults. The cocoons included 56 that look viable, 3 that were empty and 11 with was lavae, which I think is quite a good ratio.

Most solitary bee tube nests dont allow you access to see all the potential distruction that is happening behind the mud facade. I now have a few that do and its facinating; look out for either nest blocks that can be seperated or cardboard tubes you can gently slice open.

Here are the steps I followed to clean and store them. You will see the wasp lavae in the middle picture.

Please do not try this is you have closed nesting tubes and you will simply squish and kill the cocoons!.

by rosi