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Mason Bees for Pollination

ƒƒEditor’s Note: article courtesy Crown Bees

Tree branches heavy with fruit. Limbs propped up to keep from breaking.“ This image is a gardener’s dream. It’s also a reality at Crown Bees, a supplier of gentle mason bee pollinators and bee products.

Elsie Olesen at Crown Bees explains, “Bees pollinate one-third of our food supply, which relies heavily on the troubled honey bee. With losses of 40 to 50 percent of honey bee hives, we need alternative bee pollinators. Our solution is the gentle, rarely stinging Mason bee. It is an amazing pollinator and a wonderful garden companion.”

A single Mason bee efficiently pollinates 12 pounds of cherries - a task requiring 60 honey bees to achieve the same result. This 1:60 mason bee/honey bee ratio applies to other spring fruits (i.e., apples), flowering plants and nuts (i.e., almonds).

About the size of a house fly, Mason bees stay close to the nest, making them perfect for the backyard gardener. While they don’t produce honey, these bees are fun to observe and easy to raise. Mason bees are native to North America, but have been largely overlooked in favor of the European honey bee. They are solitary bees which don’t live in social hives. They prefer pre-existing holes to build their nests.

Olesen said Crown Bees has spent the past five years increasing awareness about the value of Mason bees for better crop yield. “We help our customers create healthy gardens with Mason bees and bee-safe nesting products.”

She added that Crown Bees has a long-term mission to close the bee gap and protect the food supply. “We need more Mason bees to supplement honey bees in orchards and farms. Our approach is to enlist gardeners to raise Mason bees for their own crops. At the end of the season, they can send us their excess bees. Under our Bee BuyBack program, we’ll exchange their bees for nesting material or cash. These bees will be re-homed in other gardens and organic orchards. In this way, we increase the Mason bee population.”

Learn more about Mason bees at Crown Bees has an annual booth at the Seattle Flower & Garden Show.

ƒƒEditor’s Note: Jim Snell has been growing Mason bees here in Leschi for several years and was able to take his excess (about 1600 bees!) to Crown and exchange them for nesting blocks for next year’s crop. And it is true, they don’t sting! If you are interested, feel free to call Jim (206-726-0923) for information or to visit and view his bee growing system.

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