In fact we have bees from two sources: Crown Bees, from whom we purchased bees that came in the mail, and Rent-a-Bees, from whom we are renting bees and picked them up on Saturday.
They look like this - fully developed but still in their cocoons, staying chilled until it is warm enough to put them outside.
Tom has tried keeping Mason Bees before, with limited success. Mason bees are non-social, or non-hive, bees that are native, unlike honey bees. They are gentle, non-aggressive, and great at pollinating.
When it is warm enough and there is enough blooming to provide pollen, Tom will begin to release them. They will be put out on the houses where they will come back to lay eggs.
This is the house for the purchased bees. Whatever eggs are laid here in these tubes with straw liners will be harvested by Tom and wintered over again in our refrigerator.
Hopefully the placement will be right this year, on an east wall with morning sun and afternoon shade.
The rented bees came with this block of wooden "tubes". If you look closely you will see that the block can be opened up and the cocoons can be harvested and the blocks reused. These bees will be returned to the company from which we rented the starter bees.
That bag of "mud" is clay that will be used to line a hole in the ground near the bee houses. The bees search for pollen, return to the house, crawl into a tube, lay an egg and then leave a pollen plug. The pollen plug supplies food for the developing bee. When a tube is full the bees make a mud plug to cap it. Since we have very sandy soil, the bag of clay supplies better mud for plugging the tubes.
This is what a mature Mason Bee looks like. All those hairs are pollen catchers, so as the bees go from flower to flower, they do a great job of spreading pollen.
The bees live for about two months. During that time it is hoped that they will have spread lots of pollen and laid lots of eggs to grow into next year's busy bees.
Tom hopes this year he will be a better bee manager, and our fruit trees will grow lots of fruit.