an argument for inefficiency
Some friends helped install a home for wayward mason bees this spring. Hopefully, the bees that emerged from those cocoons will find it not only suitable but comfortable, with nearby rosemary that seems to bloom constantly and a handy stone water bowl in the mud. I hope they love it!
The thing about mason bees that warms the cockles of my heart (and now I'm trying to picture those cockles anatomically) besides that they're peaceful and work with mud, is that they're a mess at collecting pollen.
A typical honey bee has leg pouches in which it gathers pollen very efficiently, and I imagine with methodology and discipline practiced at each flower, the bee ever striving to beat it's own best record. The typical mason bee, however, flails itself into the action enthusiastically, getting lost in the ecstasy of pollen, rolling it's furriness around, bathing in it, taking in the whole experience, and then moving on to each next flower with the same abandon. Seems more like an experiential expedition than a job (and I respect that).
I can see method in this madness, based on the incredible benefits reaped all around. If a mason bee prepares each sweet little baby larva in it's own mud-encased cell with delicious pollen to be eaten over some time, isn't it thoughtful that there'd be variety in that pollen? It's not a big batch production. Each future bee gets individual attention and a diverse little packet of vittles. But then, there's the incredible benefit to Pollination Itself. These bees are so good at stirring the pot - their ecstatic mess is just as intoxicating for the flowers that enjoy a smorgasbord of pollen sources resulting in a more robustly fruiting plant.
And then there's us. We get to enjoy the luscious fruits. If my tiny orchard is pollinated by mason bees, would those fruits be infused with the joy and abandon? Would they pass along a touch of blessed inefficiency?
tiny home movement hits Filomena Farm
Pete and Ken, helpful hands at FF, used one of the fresh white oak logs as a base. After adding a little apron for shade, this was ready for cocoons. The nearby viburnum you see there was almost ready to burst into bloom, just in time for the first bees' emergence.
cover image of Osmia spinulosa by Steven Falk https://www.flickr.com/photos/63075200@N07/sets/72157633183356535/