As much as 1/3 of our food supply relies on the work of bees, and pollinators are at the heart of resilient ecosystems.

The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation

When most people think of buzzing pollinators, the familiar honeybee and bumblebee come to mind. But did you know that there are over 4,000 species of bee native to North America, and the honeybee is not one of them! Most native species are solitary bees, meaning they don't live in hive communities. One of the most beautiful and fascinating among these is the mason bee. 

Mason bees create their nests in natural cracks or holes including hollow stems and holes left in snags by woodpeckers. Laying their eggs at the far reaches of the chosen crack or hole, the bee caps its nest with clay or mud (hence the name for this master of masonry!). The eggs develop through the winter into larvae, then pupae, and then adult bees, which emerge in early spring.

Notoriously friendly, you don't need to worry about getting stung by a mason bee. Only the females have stingers, and will only sting in defense if being trapped or squished. They are very efficient pollinators; it would take 15,000 to 20,000 honeybees to pollinate as many flowers as only 250 female mason bees! They also emerge earlier in the spring than other bee species, pollinating early flowering crops like apples. Unlike many other pollinators, they will continue to fly and pollinate in cloudy and cool weather, making them beneficial additions to your spring garden. 

How do you invite mason bees into your yard? Set out a mason bee home with tubing for them to nest in, with each tube being about the diameter of a pencil. Mason bees will find their way to your hand-crafted habitat and continue to use your space year after year, especially with a little maintenance and TLC from you! Want to see mason bee homes and habitat in person to decide if raising them is right for you? Head to Natural Gardens at Pacific Park to see our mason bee homes and get ideas on how to create your own. If you visit from about March through May, you may spot mason bees busy at work!