We are hearing that some people are not getting anything in their Bee Blocks. While I am sure this is disappointing, it is not a bad thing. There are multiple reasons for this. This spring was especially cold and snowy, so while I would have expected bees to start nesting in early April, they didn’t. The early season bees didn’t start nesting until mid-May and are still nesting now that it’s almost mid-June. This last warm spell is pushing the season into gear, but we are still behind the average season. The early summer bees are just now starting to fly at lower elevations and we have LOTS more to come – about 80% of the species that will nest in these blocks are either just starting to nest now or won’t fly until later in the summer.
It is likely that some species may be nesting in various bee blocks, but remain undetected because they haven’t plugged their nests yet. Some bees work for a week or more on a single nest before plugging it. Since most of their time is spent out of the nest, foraging for provisions, it is fairly common to have their nesting activities unnoticed. It only takes a bee a few seconds to enter or exit her nest, so that is usually not observed. In the workbook, I mentioned that there is a way to look into the nesting tunnels by reflecting light from a mirror into the holes. You have to be facing the sun to do this and have your eyeball, mirror, and hole all in a straight line, but once you get the hang of it, it’s pretty cool. (Practice on the larger diameter tunnels first.)
It’s equally likely that you may not have early season species in your area. Not all bees live all places. The fact that you have a block up that is not getting bees tells us a lot about where things do not nest. This is really important data, so please, keep monitoring!! As the season progresses, other species will start flying and those species may find your block to be exactly what they are looking for. After all, if your block was full of nests of early season species, there would be no room in the “inn”, so to speak, for the mid- and late season species to nest.
A block I put up on my garage wall only had two jumping spiders living in it until last week. There is now an Osmia lignaria nesting in the block. I’ve never seen the bee, but when I look into the E2 tunnel there is a mud wall with a blob of pollen in front of it. She’s still really deep in the tunnel, so I suspect I won’t have a completed nest plug from her for another four or five days. After looking at this empty block for two months (and feeling discouraged), I came home from work on Monday to find 4 of the smaller holes (G4, H4, I4, J4) all plugged up with debris. Clearly, we have gotten to the part of the season now when these little “debris” wasps are flying.
The cold spring kept everyone waiting. If your block still appears empty, keep monitoring it. Please, do not move your blocks in hopes of getting better nesting. It is crucial that they block location match the basic survey you filled out at the beginning of the season. Something will find your Bee Block, and when it does, it will be really neat. I will work to get a number of pictures up on the blog so those of you with activity will see your pictures with identifications on them and those of you who are still waiting will be able to see what others are getting.