It is important to clean out the bee house when the bees are not in the pupa stage of development. While the bee is in the pupa stage it is white and sticky. Handling the cocoons while the bees are sticky can result in a deformed bee. Wings or legs may get stuck to the body and the bee won’t be able to move normally.
Mason bees and other spring time bees should be fully developed waiting to hibernate for the winter by mid September. If you are curious what developmental stage the bees are in it’s always fun opening up a cocoon (just be sure to choose a smaller cocoon because they are usually male and less valuable).
Alfalfa leafcutter bees (summer time bees) will be in the larvae stage and won’t be damaged during clean out in the fall.
Cleaning out the bee house can get a little bit dusty so you may want to set up a table in the garage. Flash light (optional) see step 3 to find out why.
Be sure to save the elastic bands and backing for reuse next season.
Try separating the layers by hand. If the layers are hard to get apart you can use a screw driver to assist the separation. Female solitary bees usually leave a little empty space between their last egg cell and the outer plug. This space prevents us from damaging cocoons with the screw driver. Insert the screw driver into the plug and pry the layers apart.
After separating the first layer move on to step 5 sorting. After the first tray is sorted remove the second layer and sort. Repeat the process until all trays have been separated and sorted.
What you might find:
Bee safes are not necessary but they have a few advantages. The main one being they prevent the bee cocoons from drying out in the fridge. If the bee cocoons dry out the bees may die. The average fridge humidity is 20-30% but the ideal moisture for cocoons is 60-70% humidity. In the bee safe there is a foam pad that sits below the cocoons that can be moistened periodically to increase humidity in the bee safe. If you don’t have a bee safe you can purchase one here, or you can use another type of container, just be sure there are breathing holes in it. All varieties of tunnel nesting solitary bees can be stored together in the same bee safe.
Pollen can be stored in any container with a lid. Store at room temp or in the fridge.
Discard the mud/leaf plugs, pests, and used reed tubes.
Safely store your bees inside your new Bee Safe.
Comes with absorbent pad and separator.
Count up the number of cocoons you harvested. We recommend having an empty tube for every cocoon released. If you need more reed tubes for next season you can get them here.
How did your bees do? If you feel like you have extra cocoons check out our bee buy back program here to get store credit for your bees.
If you feel your bees could have done better lets talk about a few things that might have gone wrong here.
Make sure there is a little moisture in the bottom of the bee safe. The cocoons should not be submerged though so be careful. Then place the bee safe in the fridge. The bees will be in hibernating heaven. Check the bee safe monthly to ensure there is still moisture and to inspect for mold.
If you notice any mold growing on the cocoons just rinse the mold off the cocoons and containers with a bleach solution (click here for instructions), pat dry and place them back in the fridge. Mold spores can come from the other foods in the fridge like cheese or broccoli and are not a problem once removed from the cocoons.
Alternative storage method: Bees can be stored outdoors but the downside to this method is bees may emerge prematurely. If the bees emerge too early there is risk of them freezing to death with a frost.
As long as chalkbrood was not found in the laminates (wood trays) there is no need to sanitize the trays. Simply use a stiff bristle brush (or your kids toothbrush, wink, wink) and brush any remaining debris from the trays. Re-stack trays, making sure they fit together properly. After the stack is assembled put on back material (usually cardboard or tape) and secure with elastic bands.
Put the clean trays back in your bee house and set it somewhere for the winter. In the basement, a shed or garage is suitable.
This might be the hardest part :). Especially if your winters are as cold and snowy as ours!
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