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Jun 4, 2018 10:06 AM CST
Name: Annie Schreck
Fort Jones, CA (Zone 7b)
Hi there, Bee Friends!
I've been doing a bit of research on native bees, hoping to get them going in 2019. I'm trying to decide between mason and leafcutter bees, and I would love to hear from someone with experience keeping either. I like that mason bees are active in the spring rather than summer, but it looks like leafcutters cost one fifth the price of mason bees. Any one know other pro and cons I should consider?

I'm also curious as to how I should start preparing my garden for them. My plan is to go the the native plant nursery in the fall and plant up some natives with staggered blooms through the spring or summer. And prepare a mud pit if I go for the mason bees.

Any insight helps--thanks a bunch!

Annie
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Jun 4, 2018 4:18 PM CST
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Name: Margaret
Delta KY
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Hi Annie Welcome to the beekeeping forum

I don't know anything about mason or leaf cutter bees so I will leave that for someone else to answer.


I also don't know about plants for either one either but I can suggest that you search for plants for mason bees or plants for leaf cutter bees and see what comes up. That is what I did when I first started researching plants for honey bees.
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Jun 4, 2018 5:44 PM CST
Name: Heath
sevierville TN (Zone 7a)
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I don't know anything about them either but i think you should take @Mindy03 advice. Find out what they eat and how they live. I wouldn't buy any because they will probably come from a different climate. You want bees from your area. Even 20 miles is to far do to micro climates. So find out what they eat and how they live and give your local bees a awesome home. Keep us posted.
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Jun 5, 2018 12:10 PM CST
Name: Annie Schreck
Fort Jones, CA (Zone 7b)
Thank you both! I was planning on buying through the CrownBees program where you can get larva that come from your own region. But a 20 mile radius is pretty darn specific. Okay, I'll focus on planting up a bountiful habitat.

Thanks!
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Jun 5, 2018 4:28 PM CST
Name: Heath
sevierville TN (Zone 7a)
Beekeeper Bee Lover Composter Frugal Gardener Houseplants Region: Tennessee
Vermiculture Million Pollinator Garden Challenge
You know the old saying. If you build it they will come.
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Jun 5, 2018 5:39 PM CST
Name: Frank Mosher
Nova Scotia, Canada (Zone 6a)
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Annie: I am having a problem with the choice options? Mason bees are the sweethearts of the gardening world because they are small, unobtrusive, and as you said, early Spring bees before the "honey" bees surface from overwintering under the soil. Leafcutter bees are by definition, leafcutters, and can really do a job on a lot of ornamental plants, including roses. What do you want either for? Cheers!
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Jun 6, 2018 7:57 AM CST
Name: Annie Schreck
Fort Jones, CA (Zone 7b)
Valid point, Frank. I'm in it for the native insect pollination and the joy of stewarding bees.
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Apr 21, 2021 4:52 PM CST
Name: Sandy B.
Ford River Twp, Michigan UP (Zone 4b)
(Zone 4b-maybe 5a)
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I kind of stumbled onto this thread and became interested enough to do some research on the native mason bees and leafcutter bees (and in fact have now ordered a kit for the leafcutters...)

Frank, I don't believe that honeybees overwinter underground? as far as I know they spend the winter in their hives, whether those hives are manmade or of their own making in a tree or whatever (in warm enough climates). Bumblebees, and no doubt other types, do spend the winter underground, however.

As to the mason bees vs leafcutter bees - my understanding at this point is that the mason bees are more suited to an area with fruit trees that are blooming in the early spring, while the leafcutters are more suited to summer-flowering vegetable crops like cucumbers, squash and so on. They DO use plant leaves to make plugs for the tube structures where they deposit their eggs, whereas mason bees use clay or mud. So, that might well be an issue for someone growing ornamentals and not wanting the leaves to be damaged - in my case, I'm growing veggies and ornamentals, including native plants, but I don't really care if the leaves have some holes so I think the leafcutters are the ones that will work best for me.

Annie, I have to thank you for asking the original question - I've been debating for a couple of years about getting a couple of bee hives; years ago my ex and I had 10 hives and I thoroughly enjoyed that experience - but I'm a lot older now and after giving it a lot of thought have decided there are more cons than pros to going that route at this point. Giving a home to some of the native bees seems like a great compromise, since my main objective is to increase the number of pollinators in our area. Smiling
“Think occasionally of the suffering of which you spare yourself the sight." ~ Albert Schweitzer
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Avatar for Cam900
Apr 29, 2021 9:42 PM CST
AZ
We have leaf cutter bees. They make circular cuts in leaves. They are particularly fond of our roses at my home.
Thumb of 2021-04-30/Cam900/13685b
Avatar for Cam900
Apr 29, 2021 9:46 PM CST
AZ
The leaf cutters bees came unbidden to our house. They can be quite destructive to plants. They do not sting though and they do not act particularly aggressive if left alone.
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Jan 26, 2023 3:33 PM CST
Name: UrbanWild
Kentucky (Zone 6b)
Kentucky - borderline of 6a & 6b
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I know this is an old thread but perhaps people searching can benefit.

Mason bees are early spring to late. Leaves got about late spring and are usually present to fall.

Both groups are fantastic pollinators. And you can foster both. There is a variation in preferred home sizes for both groups as both not only have different species but also some size variation within species. If you build houses for them, you can even provide hole size variation within the same houses.

I have no problem with leafcutters as we provide lots of flowers and both natural and artificial nesting opportunities. They really don't hurt the plants and of rather have the leaf cutouts. It means my garden is a functioning system and it's working. The bees make it far more interesting IMHO.

If you make boxes for them, there is a good chance you'll get other things you may have never noticed... grass carrying wasps, resin bees, etc. All are beneficial.
Always looking for interesting plants for pollinators and food! Bonus points for highly, and pleasantly scented plants.

"Si hortum in bibliotheca habes, nihil deerit." [“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.”] -- Marcus Tullius Cicero in Ad Familiares IX, 4, to Varro. 46 BCE
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