This spring our team installed mason bee boxes at four locations including our Tualatin Estate Vineyard, Elton Vineyard, Bernau Estate Vineyard and Estate Vineyard in Turner. Led by our Viticulturist Clay Wesson, this project has turned into an exciting new addition to our sustainability programs.
With collaboration from local bee experts and winery volunteers, our team was able to work together to design and implement this exciting new project!
What are mason bees?
Mason bees are native to the Pacific Northwest and are known best for their productive pollinating and gentle nature. Mason bees flock to various plants including fruit and nut trees, spring berry blooms and flowers. Like many other native bee populations, mason bees are feeling the impact of environmental decline and decreasing habitat, so they are in need of a safe and sustainable environment to thrive.
What is the purpose of the Bee Boxes?
The pre-built bee boxes give the bees a safe space to build their home and nest. Mason bees are categorized as hole-nesting bees, which means they build their nests in pre-made holes found in their environment. Mason bees are also categorized as solitary bees, as they do not live in a hive as honeybees or many other common species do (Honeybee Conservancy).
Though the boxes can be placed in the vineyard at any time, the bees themselves are placed in the boxes in late March to early April, or when the temperature outside has consistently reached 55 degrees. The bees are placed in the box while they are in cocoons and as the temperature warms, will begin to emerge and build their homes.
The bees build their homes in the smaller pre-made nesting boxes placed in each larger box. The nesting boxes contain a grid of channels perfect for the bees to nest and lay their eggs. Once the bees are settled, they begin to pollinate the surrounding area.
As the weather gets cooler and the bees are finished pollinating spring flowers and fruit blooms, they settle back into their cocoons for fall and winter and wait for the process to start all over again in the spring.
What is the benefit of having mason bees at the vineyard?
Placing the mason bee boxes at our vineyards provides the bees with a safe environment to nest and pollinate. With 40% of the insect population down and biodiversity declining due to agriculture and development, providing safe nesting places for these bees will help them thrive and replenish their population.
The bees don’t provide any specific benefits to the vines in our vineyard, as those are self-pollinating plants, but rather benefit the environment as a whole. This project is just beginning and our team hopes to learn more about the bees and provide them with a thriving habitat for years to come.
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