The buzz about mason bees

We all know that honeybees, those efficient pollinators of so much that we grow and eat, are in trouble because of colony collapse disorder. Because of this, I've been hearing a great deal lately about mason bees.

I'll have to admit they hadn't come to my attention before last year, although they're certainly not anything new.

These small bees -- which rarely sting -- aren't necessarily going to replace honeybees as all-purpose pollinators, but they can be useful for those with fruit trees to be pollinated. In fact, they're often called orchard bees.

For most people, the main drawbacks to mason bees  -- also called mason wasps and blue orchard bees -- are that they don't produce honey and they don't generally pollinate flowers and vegetables.

It can be disconcerting to some people that mason bees live in holes  in wood -- your desk, for instance. (But not destructively, like carpenter bees.) Still,  you can build nesting boxes for them more easily than for honeybees.

They're also natives,which will appeal to many gardeners.

A number of suppliers are now selling mason bees, although I've read that because the orchard pollinating season is short, it can be difficult to keep them around.

Still, it's interesting to know all about them.

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