We've finished the 2019 bee extraction and we're just a little bit excited about that!!
In the past 6 weeks we've processed 9,000 nesting blocks, punched 19,440,000 million tunnels and extracted 60 million larvae. There are 6,000 gallons of bees all bagged and safely stored in our bee warehouse.
Thanks to Emma and our kids for their help with this big job. The next task....strapping the 9,000 nesting blocks back together into doubled-up units. More on that in the next few weeks!
What's in a nesting block? Well, lots of leafcutter bee larvae, we hope! There are approximately 3,600 tunnels in each unit and there could be 6-7 cocoons in each tunnel. That's potentially 21,600 individual cocoons per nesting block (approximately 2 gallons).
The blocks are made of styrofoam for insulating purposes and because they are not as heavy to handle as wooden blocks (still used by some producers). In a 12 month period we handle each of the 9,000 nesting blocks 5 times (splitting the double nesting blocks apart, putting each block through the extraction machine, strapping the single blocks into double units, taking the nesting block units to the field empty in May, bringing in nesting blocks full of larvae in August/September).
Do bees like some blocks better than others? Yes, a brand-new nesting block usually won't attract bees as well as a used block which already has the "alfalfa scent" on it. Speaking of scent, when we process bee larvae in the winter months, the entire bee warehouse has a sweet, alfalfa smell. It's like when you played in a hay stack as a kid, that pleasant hay aroma.
Anyone who thinks that gardening begins in the Spring and ends in the Fall, is missing the best part of the whole year; for gardening begins in January with the DREAM - Josephine Neuse.
Photo credit: Delia Crittenden Photography
Why do we call leafcutter bees "solitary bees" when clearly they co-exist in a hut and nesting blocks that are full of thousands of other bees? If you have leafcutter bees in your yard will they chase away other species of bees?
Leafcutter and other solitary bees do not live in a colony nor do they have a queen bee. The male leafcutters hatch first and live approximately one week during which time they fertilize the female bees. Female leafcutters live approximately eight weeks and have full responsibility for building cocoons, laying eggs and collect pollen and nectar to provide a food source for their eggs. They will provide each larvae with everything it needs but they do not tend to the young as they grow and never get to see their offspring emerge.
Solitary bees are also known as "gregarious" which means they can happily co-exist with other bees in close proximity. They are non-aggressive and do not swarm and are safe around pets and children. No protective equipment is required to be around leafcutter bees and other solitary bee species.
Listen to the sound of thousands of busy leafcutter bees as they build cocoons inside a commercial-sized nesting block. This was a hot summer day when the bees from a nearby alfalfa field were at their peak activity level. And yes, it was the inspiration for our Backyard Pollinator idea! #thatsalotofbees
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