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Cedar Mill News

Volume 15, Issue 9
September 2017


For bumper garden crops add Mason bees
by Margie Lachman

There are many insects and birds that pollinate our fruits, berries and vegetables. But weather has an influence on successful pollination. This spring was a good example of weather adversely impacting pollination. I have a blueberry bush on our back deck that was covered with lots of blossoms in the spring.

A solitary Mason bee emerges from a nest house
A solitary Mason bee emerges from a nest house

Every morning I watched out the kitchen window for bumblebees to visit it. But the cold rainy weather this year caused the bumblebees, which are among the first pollinators to awaken, to make a late appearance. The hummingbirds that live in our area were the only visible wildlife to come and sip from the nectar as cold temperatures persisted.

Many fewer berries ripened this year than last when spring was warmer and drier. There were plenty of berries last year, enough to share with a little wren who was nesting somewhere nearby. She would visit every day and eat a few berries. Our Great Dane, Millie, would take a berry (only a ripe one!) each time she passed by the shrub.

This year’s crop was disappointing. But there was nothing I could have done this spring except perhaps have mason bees that don’t mind cold spring weather and are usually the first pollinators to appear. These gentle native bees excel at pollination, especially fruit and nut trees, blueberries and cane berries. They are solitary bees that do not make honey and have no hive to defend, so they rarely sting.

From February through May if temperatures are at least 55 degrees, these industrious insects gather nectar and pollen which they put into tunnels in places like hollow reeds or straws provided by humans. Eggs are laid on this food which their hatchlings will eat.

These native wild bees can be invited to your own garden by planting early bloomers like Pieris (Andromeda), and our native Mahonia species (Oregon grape), which are rich in nectar and pollen. Mason bee houses with predrilled holes of the proper size can be purchased at local garden stores and bird shops, if you want to have these helpful little bees pollinate your plants. You may also buy cocoons containing live bee larvae.

Much helpful information with photos is available at

Questions? Email me at or call 503-645-2994.

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Published monthly by Pioneer Marketing & Design
Publisher/Editor:Virginia Bruce
PO Box 91061
Portland, Oregon 97291
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