About solitary bees
KLASYFIKACJA BIOLOGICZNA MURARKI OGRODOWEJ
Kingdom: Zoa (Animalia) – Zwierzęta
Features of the species:
The mason bee belongs to the order of the Hymenoptera insects due to the characteristic features of the structure. They are two pairs of membranous wings and a biting-licking type of mouthparts. Like other insects of this order, this bee undergoes a complete transformation (holometabolism) - the eggs hatch into larvae, which pass into the pupal stage, which in turn turns into an adult specimen. During development, the pupa is protected by a cocoon.
Red Mason Bee as a genus in Poland includes as many as 18 species of bees, which show the ability to "build nests", that is, covering them with sand or clay mixed with insect saliva. The Red Mason Bee owes its name to this activity. Another ability of this solitary bee is to collect pollen on the lower abdomen. Turning specifically to masonry, it is one of the most common species of spring pollinators, which occurs throughout the country. The distinguishing feature of the garden masonry is a strongly hairy body with a rusty or rusty red color. This is justified in the Latin name of the species (stern is derived from the word rufus, meaning ore). It is a bee with an average body size, similar to a honey bee. Female mason bees can be recognized by two characteristic horns, which are located on the frontal plate. Another feature of females of this species are strongly built and toothed mandibles located in the facial part. Thanks to mandibles, the masonry can perform the work for which it is known under that name.
Red mason bees are solitary bees, but under favorable conditions they even create very large colonies. Despite this, they do not produce honey, and the main purpose of their breeding is to pollinate trees, shrubs and seedlings, which can therefore bear fruit abundantly. In total, food for these insects is about 150 species of plants, including fruit trees, currant bushes, raspberries and blackberries, strawberry plants, as well as rape, vetch and dandelions. Therefore, the natural habitat of the solitary bees are home gardens and orchards.
Solitary bees choose for their nesting nests the branches of decayed trees, wooden poles and beams in buildings and empty plant stems (usually reeds) near places that provide them with food. Creating appropriate artificial living conditions for them is relatively simple, and the breeding itself does not require a lot of work and can be treated as a pleasant hobby.
A self-prepared habitat for these insects can be both a common reed bundle, as well as a breeding patch. Both the reed and the plaster should be protected against rainfall and strong wind, and possibly also against frost. You can place them, for example, in a wooden box, which is then attached to trees or poles placed near the plants. The height at which we place this type of "bait" for red masons is not very important. However, it is good to ensure that the inlets to the nest cells are directed towards the sunniest south side, possibly south-east or west. In this way, the inlet holes to the nest are naturally heated, which only encourages the settlement of insects. It also affects the activity of bees, which can be expected especially in the early morning and evening hours.
There are two proven ways of settling solitary hives. The first is to place a house with a reed or a breeding comb in the place of natural clusters of masonry. Look for them on the southern walls of buildings, especially wooden barns or houses. You can also buy ready-made bee cocoons and place them in the immediate vicinity of the artificial habitat. Then, however, care should be taken to protect the cocoons against birds, rodents and moisture. In both cases, the activities related to colonization should be performed immediately after the first plants bloom.
The life cycle of solitary bees
In a nest, garden masons build from a few to a dozen hatching cells, arranging them in a row. They separate one from the other cells with clay partitions made by them. Before the female lay's eggs, she fills the cells with the accumulated food, i.e., pollen and plant nectar. In the next stage of the breeding process, it seals the cells, making it difficult for the natural enemies of its larvae to attack. The pollination season for red masonry starts at the beginning of April and lasts until the end of June. The males are the first to leave the nest, but their flight time ends faster than in the case of females. It only takes 3 weeks. Females live about 7-8 weeks. At this time, there is also the reproductive period of these insects, after which inseminated females build a nest, collect pollen and nectar, lay eggs, and then die. Young larvae hatch a few days after the nest cells are closed. They eat pollen accumulated in the cell until pupation. This takes place in September so that the solitary bees, already in the form of an imago (adult), can survive the winter. Until the next season, the insect waits in the tool it has made. In spring, on the other hand, it comes to life and the cycle repeats itself anew.
Where and why is it worth creating artificial habitats for mason bees?
The red mason is an insect that should live in every garden and orchard because it is universal and effective as a pollinator. The efficiency of pollination of apple, plum or raspberry trees is comparable to that of the honey bee. It is also an excellent pollinator for plants grown under cover. If we employ red mason bee to work in greenhouses and tunnels, in such conditions it can be active up to 14 hours a day.
To replenish just one brood cell, masons collect about 200 mg of pollen mixed with nectar. Mathematically speaking, this means that a single insect makes about 40 flights and visits 1,200 flowers to feed one offspring. It is worth mentioning that even in difficult conditions, the female masonry installs at least five breeding cells. If we multiply this number by the number of 200 flights needed to gather enough food, it turns out that the insect pollinates 6,000 flowers during the season. The quality of fruit pollinated by honey bees and loners is also comparable.
Moving on to the differences - red mason bees cannot obtain honey, although thanks to this they are less demanding in breeding than honey bees. Female red mason bee also does not sting, so we can feel safe in their vicinity, and caring for them does not require the use of appropriate protective clothing. It is a calm and very hardworking insect, for which it is valued by plant breeders. In addition, it very quickly becomes attached to a new breeding place, if only the conditions permit.
The most important features of the Red Mason Bee:
- active biological substance in the product,
- natural tendency to form colonies and attach to the nesting site,
- ease of artificially occupying nests,
- shortened character and anticipating aggressiveness (solitary bees do not protect nests, and even in the event of behavior during contacts with the repair team),
- preferences settings,
- high efficiency of pollination of plants,
- ability to work in foil tunnels,
- Safe distance of origin (up to 300 meters from the nests).
The text is based on a publication by Luiza Dawidowicz. Literatura:
- Banaszak – Cibicka W., 2009. Hodowla dziko żyjących pszczół. Przegląd Pszczelarski, 17: 25-26.
- Banaszak J., 1993. Ekologia pszczół. Wydawnictwo Naukowe PWN, Warszawa, Poznań.
- Flaga S., 2002. Pszczoła murarka ogrodowa. Zarząd Główny PKE, Kraków
- Glejdasz K., Wilkaniec Z. 2008. Murarka ogrodowa (Osmia rufa L.: Megachilidae) jako element środowiska rolniczego – biologia i ekologia. [W:] Krajobraz i Bioróżnorodność, (red. S. Kaczmarek: 263-275). Wydawnictwo UKW, Bydgoszcz.
- Ruszkowski A. Gosek J., Biliński M., Pawlikowski T., Kosior A., Fijał J., Kaczmarska K., 1998. Okresy pojawu pszczół samotnic z rodziny
PhD student at the Faculty of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture at the University of Life Sciences in Poznań. A graduate of: environmental protection at the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań and gardening at the University of Life Sciences in Poznań. He is interested in designing gardens, arranging and maintaining greenery, as well as revitalizing degraded areas. In her activity, she combines the knowledge gained in both fields of study with her passion for art and floristry. She loves plants, animals, gardening, and long and short journeys. He works in the Association of Horticulture Engineers and Technicians in Poznań, where he is the vice-president of the Floristic Section.