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What hatches twice, sounds like Rice Krispies in milk, creates no honey, wax or hive, does not sting and increases fruit, seed and nut production? Right here in the Comox Valley? If you said, “Mason Bees”, you are right! Specifically, the Blue Orchard Mason Bees.
The Blue Orchard Bee (BOB) is one of thousands of pollinator insects that are native to Vancouver Island, the rest of Canada and the US. Like hummingbirds and butterflies, the BOB has been here much longer than people, and its job has always been to help keep plant life going from generation to generation.
Monika Grünberg, of Green Mountain Pollinators, has been getting to know the BOB for over 15 seasons: setting out cocoons and clean tunnels, gathering, cleaning and counting cocoons each winter, storing them out of harm’s way and starting the cycle again each spring. She has listened to the crunching of bees ready to hatch, watched and even held the cocoons in her hand as brand new bees emerge and prepare for flight. She is sharing her knowledge, craft, and, most important, her love for the bees with products, instructions and workshops on befriending the BOB.
But habitat reduction, intensive mono-crop agriculture, and poisons have left the BOB, just like its more well known cousin the honey bees, in urgent need of human friends. It’s ironic, but true: because humans have invaded their world, the bees now need human help.
Fortunately, the BOB is easy to love. It is gentle, and, in its humble way, beautiful. It has a simple but fascinating life cycle. Provided with clean, mite-free tunnels each spring, the BOB will multiply and pollinate gardens, orchards, flowers, and all of the early-blooming fruit and seed-bearing trees of nearby woodlots and forests. With a short season (about 6 weeks) and range (about 200 meters), the BOB is a very localised pollinator. Urban gardeners and town dwellers especially benefit from helping the BOB. But so do orchardists who experiment with additional pollination options and naturalists who like observing the natural world around them.