One female mason bee and 60,000 flowers! Wow!!

Unlike honey bees, mason bees have a very fleeting lifespan and must get the job done in a fraction of the time. Males live long enough to mate, up to 2 weeks, and females live up to 6 weeks. So, females are down to business collecting pollen and nectar right from the start of their lives.

Mason bees search for flowers of any kind. The sole mission a female mason bee is to lay eggs, and she needs pollen and nectar to begin this process.  She can lay between 30-35 eggs  in her lifetime, which again is only 4-6 weeks long.  That is quite an achievement!

She will visit 75 flowers to gather one full load of pollen, and 25 loads are required for one pollen wad, which is then destined to feed one larva. So, she will visit up to 1875 flowers in one day to lay one egg in one cell!  She is a very busy bee and an excellent pollinator. Her method is to bellyflop into the flower and roll around in the  pollen collecting it all over her body, and then goes to the next flower and repeats. It seems sloppy and disorganized, but it is a very efficient cross-pollinating method.

Mason bees look for holes to nest in, and they love long tubes, as they can easily stack the eggs in cells on top of each other.  The holes can either be provided via a mason bee house or can be the long cavity created by a previous resident, such as a wood boring beetle or a carpenter bee. They are solitary bees so there is no hive created or protected by a community. However, mason bees do prefer to nest next door to each other, in parallel. Once a mason bee has found a nesting site she begins the layering project that will make anyone dizzy just reading about it!

Once she has collected enough nectar and pollen for one egg she will go head first into her chosen nesting site and regurgitate the nectar first.  She then proceeds to back out only to back in again and shake the pollen wad on top of the nectar, which is followed up with one final head-first nectar regurgitation, and finally she backs in to lay an egg on top of the nectar! However, she isn’t quite finished yet. She caps the cell with mud which she has collected from a nearby source. This process is repeated daily until she fills a cavity with cells, which means she could visit as many as 60,000 flowers in her 4-6 weeks of life!!! Aren’t  you dizzy just reading this?

Below is a picture of several cells with the nectar and pollen provision topped with a little white egg and capped with mud. It’s a beauty to see such sequencing in nature, isn’t it?