Mason D. Bee

I’m too tired and can’t be arsed to re-type everything, so I’ll copypasta from the email I sent to R.

So…you might remember last year that P had bought me a couple of little mason bee houses. Mason bees are (one of) the cute, fuzzy, gentle little solitary bees that build nests inside tubes. Masons use mud for theirs (hence “mason” bee); others use leaves, etc.. Anyway, P brought home one of those little bee houses last year; he’d seen it when he was picking up my floor stain at Menard’s, and while he had no idea what sort of bees might live in those houses, he did know I very much like bees, and the houses looked cute, so he got me one. I was lazy and didn’t get around to hanging it up, but that deterred the bees not in the least; they used it right where it was, sitting on the patio about 8″ from my feet when I sit in my chair. In fact, when I tried to hang it up where it was supposed to go, the bees were terribly confused and flew around my legs, looking for it, so I put it back. After they’d nearly filled the little yellow house, P bought a blue one, and by the end of the season, they’d filled that one as well. I put both of them in the garage for the winter, out of reach of hungry mice (mice occasionally do get into the garage, but Onje and Bulky are in there, too, and mice tend not to be terribly long-lived with them around). The garage wasn’t heated this winter, but neither did anything freeze in there, so it was the perfect spot.

C has a greenhouse, and she has some dwarf citrus trees that she’s picked up over the years on trips to Florida. Those trees don’t really get cold temperatures because they’re in a heated (wood burner that creates steam to heat) greenhouse, so once the days start getting longer, they bloom. Problem is that because they bloom so early, there are almost no bees around to pollinate them because it’s not warm enough. This year, though, I had those two full mason bee houses that were easily portable, so I brought the blue house in for C yesterday. The bees in the yellow house that I just put out on the patio won’t emerge from their tubes for at least two or three weeks because it’s still too cool. In a warm greenhouse, though, with the days getting longer, they should emerge much sooner; in time to pollinate the citrus trees. That’s the plan, at least.

C was at her desk yesterday, and had told me she’d seen a honeybee flying around her office. Possible–it’s been sunny and not particularly cold the past few days–but I thought it was more likely that one of the mason bees in the house that was sitting on the counter in her office had responded to the warm indoor temperatures and made his great escape. She said she didn’t think so because the bee looked too big for a mason, but I still thought it probably was.

She is off today, B was gone to St Louis, and I’m by myself in the office. I was sitting here, minding my own business, entering customer purchase orders when something flew in front of my face and landed on my desk beside my phone. A bee. Not only a bee, but a mason bee. He (or she…I didn’t ask) was still able to fly, but sluggish and falling over when it tried to walk, so I was easily able to get the cup we keep in the office for me to catch and release bugs. I knew the bee had emerged yesterday, and there’s nothing at all in the office that would provide either nectar or pollen, so it would be dehydrated, and exhausted from flying in search of sustenance.

We don’t have an office coffee maker; I’m the only one here who drinks coffee, and I bring mine from home, so we don’t keep sugar here. Not even a packet. I couldn’t leave at lunch to go get some sugar to make “nectar” for the bee, so I ran over to the business next door (we know them well) and asked if anyone there had some sugar, even just a packet. K found two in her desk, so I came back to the office, mixed some sugar into bottled water at roughly 1:4 (same as for hummingbirds) because that’s approximately the ratio of flower nectar. I put some in a teaspoon, and moved the bee to a plastic bag so it was contained, but I could see to feed it.

I named “him” Mason D. Bee, and he drank the nectar with great enthusiasm. I’ve been offering nectar about every 45 minutes; I have no idea how frequently they need to eat, but he’s a little guy, so he can’t consume much at a time, and were he outside, he’d be flying around, visiting flowers as long as it’s daylight, so I’m pretty sure he needs to eat frequently. I don’t have any pollen for him, and I won’t see C until Monday, but I’m going to feed him sugar water and try to find enough flowers at home to give him pollen to survive until then. I can’t just release him because there isn’t enough in bloom for him yet, and night temperatures are still pretty cold for a very small bee that shouldn’t be awake for another few weeks. I know it’s just one bee that lives only about four weeks, and in the grand scheme of things, one bee more or less doesn’t matter, but to that bee, it matters very much, so I think it’s worth at least trying to keep him healthy over the weekend, then bring him to C on Monday.

…and here’s Mason D. Bee!

When I’d got him home, I checked to see whether he’d even be interested in crocus or daffodil. He ate crocus pollen, then washed himself like a little cat. Fucking adorable.

Never having had to accommodate a bee “bee-fore” (god, I’m hilarious), I had to get a bit creative, but I made him an apartment. Water for the flowers has cotton balls so he won’t drown, and the cotton balls in the crab dish are soaked in 4:1 sugar water. Sad little jade plant is just décor.

He landed on the flower water cotton balls and parked for a while. He’s so cute!

I wasn’t sure he’d live, but he seemed to be okay, if unimpressed at being confined. I’m glad he’s little and I’m big because he looks pissed!

I thought he must have got out when I gave him fresh flowers and fresh nectar because I couldn’t find him, but I was just looking in the wrong place. 🙂

So…that’s the story of Mason D. Bee. He will go to work with me tomorrow–assuming he’s still alive–and then he’ll go home with Cindy and live in her greenhouse, nomming nectar and pollen from citrus trees. I’ll be sorry to see him go, but it wouldn’t be fair to keep him when I can’t provide properly for him long-term. Granted, he’ll live only about four weeks, and that’s not exactly long-term, but to him, that is literally a lifetime. Those are the only four weeks he’s got, so they have to count.

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