I've compiled all the frequently-asked questions from my workshops and answered them below. In the first half of this article, you'll find questions about bees in general; in the second, you'll find questions about mason bees.
Bees in General:
How long do bees live?
It depends on the kind of bee. The average honey bee lives for 45 to 60 days. Some mason bees live for an entire year, but you’ll only see them out and about for a couple of months.
Are wasps related to bees?
They’re technically related, but not closely. Both are considered pollinators, though.
Why are people so concerned about honey bees, when other bees do more work?
Honey bees are special because they’re practical for farming. Their hives can be easily moved from place-to-place to accommodate growing seasons. Plus, they produce honey.
Do bees live near the beach?
Yes. Bees live just about everywhere, except for extremely cold places like Antarctica.
Do bigger bees pollinate more?
Not necessarily. Carpenter bees are huge compared to mason bees, but they pollinate way less than mason bees.
If you had two bees of the same species, and one happened to be bigger, then it might pollinate more because of its larger surface area. However, the difference wouldn’t be significant.
Why do I see bees in my pool so often?
They’re probably trying to get a drink. Bees need water just like we do. You can make a place for them to drink by following the bee watering hole tutorial in this article.
What’s a solitary bee?
A solitary bee is a bee that doesn’t live in a community. Mason bees, for example, are solitary. Honey bees are not, since they live in colonies.
How often do bees sting?
Bees generally only sting when they feel threatened.
How many times can bees sting?
A bee can only sting once, unlike wasps, which can sting many times. Some bees, like male mason bees, can’t sting at all.
What happens to a bee when it stings you?
When a bee stings you, it dies.
Why do bees sting?
Bees sting to protect themselves and other bees. Bees that live in colonies are more likely to sting because they have others to protect.
Are mason bees good for pets?
Yes. Mason bees aren’t aggressive, so you don’t have to worry about them hurting your pets. If you’re worried about your pets hurting them, just mount your mason bee house out of their reach.
Where’s the best place to put a mason bee house?
Put your mason bee house in an area near flowers and exposed topsoil. Mount it 1-6ft above ground, facing southeast.
What do mason bees do in the winter?
Technically, they don’t do anything. The adult mason bees die in early winter, leaving behind pupae in their nesting tubes. The pupae grow and eventually hatch in early spring.
Do mason bees have roles like honey bees?
No. Honey bees have roles because they have a job to do -- make honey! Mason bees simply eat, pollinate, and produce more mason bees.
Are mason bees carpenter bees?
No. Mason bees find holes to live in. Carpenter bees make them. Mason bees are also much smaller than carpenter bees.
How do you tell the difference between a mason bee and a honey bee?
Research and learn what mason bees look like in your area. You may have blue or red mason bees, which look very different from honey bees. If you have ones that look similar to honey bees, just keep studying photos and comparing them with the bees around you. You’ll get the hang of it.
Why is cedar a good wood for mason bee houses?
Mason bees are attracted to cedar, and many pests and parasites aren’t.
Do mason bees sting?
They can, but it’s very rare. Only the females can, and since they’re solitary, they’re don’t have much of a reason to.
When’s the best time to put a mason bee house outside?
Put it outside just before early spring. Mason bees start pollinating in early spring, so putting it out a little earlier than that will ensure that your house is ready when they are. There’s no harm in putting it out way before then; just don’t expect anybody to move in yet.
Are there mason bees where I live?
Unless you live in Antarctica, there are probably mason bees in your area. You can double-check with a quick Google search. If not, mason bees have all kinds of cousins that can live in mason bee houses, like leafcutter bees. Stick a mason bee house outside and see what happens. Worst case scenario, you’ll have a cool new yard decoration.
If you still have questions after reading through these, feel free to send them to BuildforBees@gmail.com. I'll answer you ASAP.