Saturday, February 26, 2011

Brian Campbell on Attracting Bees to your Yard

It's time to start thinking about attracting bees to your garden and Brian Campbell gives Lindsay Coulter some good suggestions in this video from the David Suzuki Foundation.

Mason beekeepers have very strong opinions about which nesting system is the best. Paper or cardboard tubes are prone to attack by parasitical insects who can bore through the tubes to attack the mason bees. Boring holes into a piece of wood is basically creating a trap for mason bees as you can't get in to clean out mites. However, some beekeepers like to combine the two, lining the wood holes with paper tubes that can be removed so you can clean the cocoons. The risk with this method is that the paper can get wet and mouldy.

Some people swear by using the plastic stacking trays, but other beekeepers say the material doesn't allow the bees to breathe properly. One of the beekeepers that seems to make most sense to me is an entomologist on Vancouver Island. He and his father have many years of research under their belts. They use sliding wooden trays with plexiglass observational lids. They call this system the "Hutchings Peek a Boo System" and have decided to the design through creative commons. This means you can copy the deisgn, but please give credit to the source and do not make them to sell. However, you can buy them if you travel to the island and that info is on their website. His hives are longer than the convention ones because he says you can get the optimum number of female bees in trays that are about twelve inches long. The Hutchings have also developed a unique way of cleaning the bees using sand. He has evidence that bleach does not kill the mites and making the cocoons wet can end up causing them to develop mould. I must say, my gut feeling is that these guys have figured it out. They have videos on cleaning the cocoons with sand, which lack production values but they are charming and informative if you stay with them.

In terms of bee "baths" or drinking pools, Brian Campbell has recently suggested that you fill your bee bath with wet sand to keep mosquitoes from laying eggs in the water. Otherwise, just make sure you put in clean water every day after the temperatures start to warm up again. When will that be, I wonder?

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