A few days back I got a guest post put up on another great homesteading website, Small Town Homestead. The owner does the Modern Homesteading Podcast that I had mentioned back in my podcast post. I wrote a bit on mason bees and thought I would share a bit more information here. Now I don’t think that I will be giving up on honeybees and I would still recommend that if you have the space and the inclination it is worth trying your hand at keeping bees. So let’s compare honeybees with their native counterparts…the mason bee.
Where is Home
Let’s face it, in keeping honey bees we have brought a non-native species onto our shores and keep them as livestock. While we have done this with any number of animals, but as these animals specifically pollinate plants, it makes sense that a native to the American continent would be a good choice to pollinate plants that are grown here. The mason bee is that native. It also tends to be much better at pollinating plants that are here.
Barrier to Entry
Here is something that has me excited about this upcoming spring. It is darned simple to get into mason bees, you can get a the housing, tubes and cocoons for far less than you would pay for just a langstroth hive. This means that you can easily add a couple colonies of mason bees around your homestead to help out with whatever you have planted. On a small urban or suburban homestead you would most likely only need a single set of mason bees with their home on a post near your garden and you’ll be golden.
The honey is the kicker. If you want honey you will need to have honey bees and everything that goes with it. If you are in search of pollination of plants mason bees are a great addition to your homestead. They like most animals will only gather and store what they need, not the vast amount of extra goodness that our honeybee friends seem inclined to make and pack away.
So Why No Mason Bee Outcry
In a number of ways, bees are bees. While the honey bee is facing pressures such as lost of habitat, insecticides and less food, the native bees have been facing the same pressures. The thing is that it seems to be turning out that the native solitary bees are a bit hardier. For one each bee is its own colony, instead of getting up to 60,000 bees to form a single hive that can share diseases, parasites or insecticides. But bees like the mason bees are solitary, sure if a bee comes across a problem a single bee may pass away, but they won’t bring the horrors back to thousands of their sisters.
Would you like to know more?
I am planning on adding some mason bees to my homestead this coming season. I’ll be posting on here how it goes and we’ll see if the pollination picks up. It will be hard to attribute it to any specific bees as I am looking in to adding at least one more honeybee hive this spring as well. But then again, biodiversity is for the best, right. (Though I’m not a big fan of carpenter bees).
How about you, will you join me on a mason bee journey?