Native Bees in America

Insects like Orchard Mason bee may be solution to growing orchard and garden pollination problems.

| March/April 2009

Not seeing that old familiar friend the honeybee buzzing around much? It’s not your imagination. Because of hive collapse disorder, tracheal mites and lost habitat, the honeybee population has dwindled over the last several years. And gardeners and growers have suffered right along with them.

That’s the bad news. The good news is there is an under sung, permanent resident ready to take up the charge. The Orchard Mason bee is a native, North American bee that has been around longer than the imported European honeybee and – although it doesn’t produce honey – has been pollinating fruit trees and flowers steadily for thousands of years.

America’s own pollinator

Never heard of the Mason bee? No surprise there. This little black bee works humbly in obscurity, quietly pollinating and laying eggs in old beetle holes, broken reeds or other gaps made by man or nature. Lisa Novich, owner of Knox Cellars Native Pollinating Bees in Washington state, explains that Mason bees are simple, non-aggressive bees that spend their days pollinating and laying eggs.

Because they have nothing to protect (unlike honeybees who store all their food and eggs in one place), Mason bees only sting if truly provoked. Novich, whose father Brian Griffin literally wrote the book on Mason bees, says, “They’re non-aggressive, so you can have a colony in your backyard. They’re not zoned out of neighborhoods like honeybees sometimes are. And they’re easy to raise in your home garden.”

Early bird gets the worm

The biggest advantage in raising Orchard Mason bees is that they are early spring pollinators. This means they start flying and pollinating as early as February or March in many parts of the country. In fact, as soon as daytime temperatures reach 50 degrees with some consistency, Mason bees will begin to fly.

Orchard bees will fly in colder, wetter weather because their dark color helps them absorb the heat of the sun. And because they tend to lay their eggs on warm sunny walls, Novich says, they can warm up in the sun, fly out and pollinate your fruit trees and still have energy to fly back to that warm, sunny wall.

10/21/2014 10:20:37 AM

The article does not give the diam. and depth the holes need to be. My husband and I have seen a few of these bees in our garden,flowers and around our fruit trees we would love to attract more. Could you please provide the diam. and depth the holes need to be. Thanks

mother earth news fair 2018 schedule


Next: April 28-29, 2018
Asheville, NC

Sit in on dozens of practical workshops from the leading authorities on modern homesteading, animal husbandry, gardening, real food and more!