Happy Bee-Birthday!

Blue orchard mason bee

Blue orchard mason bee

Dear Bee Parent,

The day you’ve been waiting for has finally arrived!
Now that warmer weather is finally here, the time has come for you to release your bees.
Before you do, remember to:
1. Place the bee house at 4-5 feet off the ground facing East, or South-East so that they can benefit from the early morning sun.
2. Make sure there is a good supply of mud as close as possible to the bee house.
3. There should be lots of flowers (or flowering trees) nearby as well (within 30-50 feet) and even more within the 300-500 foot radius of the nesting box.
Remember to place the cocoons (and any live bees which may have emerged) either in or on the nesting box. Your best time to put the bees out is early in the morning, though it’s okay if you want to release them late morning/early afternoon!
Our family was really excited, yesterday, to release our bees and to see them begin to emerge so soon after release.  In warm weather like it is today, it won’t be long before you can watch your mason bees emerge from their cocoons, or from their nesting boxes.
If you take pictures of your bees hatching, or of your set-up, I would love to see what your gardens look like and would love it even more if I could share those pictures with  others who are following The Bee Mama (website and FB page).
Happy Bee-birthday!

Help for Bees and Trees

stark appleseed

When I first moved to Guelph a couple of years ago, I got involved with an organization called Appleseed Collective. In the heat of apple season, we went all over the Guelph area to harvest apples, with the objective of using those apples to help provide food to those in need.

Many of the organizations that we donated to were emergency food agencies such as the Out Of Poverty Society of Guelph, the Salvation Army Food Bank, as well as the CSA at the University of Guelph.

But, we couldn’t have done it without the generosity of Rob and Jane Stark, and their willingness to let not just Appleseed Collective, but also a host of other community organizations, come in and pick to their heart’s content to support community organizations.

apples

The Stark orchard is not a commercial orchard at all. It is a labour of love.  The orchard had originally been planted as a pick-your-own commercial orchard. However, when the Starks purchased the property fourteen years ago, it was in terrible condition.Much of the back area was inaccessible. The orchard had not been pruned for probably 5 or 6 years and the rows between the trees hadn’t been trimmed for a long time. Though they’d been told that there might be a marshy area on the property, they weren’t able to find it for some time. .

Over the first five years or so, Rob and Jane gradually brushed out the rows and pruned what trees they could save. The dwarf fruit trees were badly overgrown and some reached 30 feet tall !! Thousands of hours of work later, they have a fairly workable orchard which usually produces a great deal of fruit.

For the past ten years, Rob and Jane have been allowing people to come out and pick apples and pears. Groups such as the Appleseed Collective,  Waldorf School classes, Church and Seniors groups, local Scouting programs and many more.

Last year, the Stark orchard experienced something they had never experienced before. A year without fruit. Not one apple or pear. Was it due to the harsh winter of 2013/2014? Did it harm the wild pollinators that they had always had before?

640px-Apple_Blossom_-_Michigan

In answer to their interest in learning more about he could manage mason bees to improve his pollination on his property, I met with Rob Stark a few weeks ago. After describing what it would take to get even a fraction of what he would need for adequate pollination to occur on his property, Rob was excited… but then came back and said the words that many orchards say when faced with an expensive initial outlay “I can’t do that right now. I just don’t have the financial resources.”

Now, I’m not the kind of person to just leave things alone like this. Not when I know the property, the owners, and that the space would be PERFECT for mason bees. So I’m turning to the community of bee lovers and wild pollination lovers (as well as all the organizations that have benefited from coming out to this property) to help out. I’ve created a fundraiser on GoFundMe to benefit the Stark Orchard – to help them get the homes AND the bees they need to get started… and if we reach our goal early enough, we’ll even have a bee release party on May 9th (and if you donate to that level, you’ll be invited).

So please donate to the Stark Family Orchard’s mason bee and bee house fund!

picking apples

Guelph Resilience Festival and Eco-market

I’m so excited!

The Bee Mama will be at the Guelph Resilience Festival Eco-market (in the Old Quebec Street Mall in downtown Guelph) on Saturday March 21st .

In addition to all sorts of great information about mason bees how you can attract and care for them, I will have mason bee houses AND actual mason bee cocoons for sale for you to take home and set up in your back yard.

I hope to see you there!

Putting Out Your Mason Bee House: 4 Tips to Happier, Healthier Mason Bees

I’m so excited, I’m practically buzzing right now.

All boxed up

Mason bees

My mason bees have arrived! 600 of  them to be precise. They’re sitting inside my refrigerator, keeping cool while waiting for the temperatures outside to warm up.

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It’s tough. I’ve been waiting for so long for the bees to arrive. I’m itching to bring them outside and let them free.

But I can’t.

According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, daily daytime temperatures won’t consistently exceed 10 degrees C for a while, and chance of frost won’t be past for almost two months. If I don’t want the bees to die from starvation or frost, I just have to wait.

So if you’re preparing your garden to have mason bees, here is something you can start to do NOW. Look for a place where you can place their home.

Here are four things you need to know about mason bees and placing mason bee houses:

  1. Mason bees are early risers – and love the early morning sun. Make sure that the place you want to give them has a south-eastern or SSE view of the sun. They need it to help them wake up and warm up.
  2. The best height for placement of a mason bee house is approximately 4 feet off the ground. You can mount the nesting house to your home, a fence, a shed or anything else. Just make sure it’s stable.
  3. Mason bees need mud. Yes, I said mud. If you can’t find a good quality clay when you dig down about 1 foot with a shovel, consider investing in a tiny bit of clay (you can get it from the gardening store). Keep the soil damp, as the bees need it for their nesting activity. No mud = no bees.
  4. Because mason bees are early pollinators, there aren’t often many  plants that are ready for foraging early in the season. If you want to have happy, healthy mason bees, make sure they have flowers to pollinate before they emerge. Plant hardy (preferably native species) plants (depending on your growing zone, heather might work well) nearby to give them some food until the fruit and berry bushes start to flower.

Now you have something to keep you busy until the better weather comes along.

Detox is Good for You (and for bees)

greencleaning

At the beginning of the New Year, many people make changes to their diet in order to remove toxins from their life, and improve their health. They eat more raw and living foods, they cut back or eliminate caffeine and/or alcohol, they start to exercise and drink more water.

However, one way that most people don’t try to detox is in their personal care. They continue to use the same shampoos and conditioners, the same soaps, toothpaste and deodorant. Unfortunately, many of these personal care products contain various poisons and carcinogens, which virtually renders all of their efforts to remove toxins from their bodies through healthy eating and living virtually useless.

I have created a special new series of mini videos which teach you how to make your own non-toxic self-care products. These videos, which are (or will be shortly) up on Fiverr, will teach you how to make your own shampoo and conditioner, toothpaste, and deodorant.

By using my recipes and directions, you’ll eliminate many toxins from your personal care products, which will reduce toxins in your personal environment, and in the environment as a whole. I’ll also let you know where I like to purchase a lot of my containers and products that I use (and I don’t necessarily get affiliate $$ for this, as most of the items I purchase are from bulk or dollar stores).

One thing I have learned over the years is that “What you do to one, you do to many.” By taking care of yourself, removing toxins from your life, you end up removing toxins from the environment – which will surely benefit others (including the bees).