Mason Bees Nesting in the Bug Box

bug box on allotment shed

We have some exciting news to share! Mason bees (Osmia rufa) are making nests inside the bamboo cane bug box, sited on the allotment shed. Mason bees are solitary and do not form colonies or produce honey. The Mason bee gets it name due to using mud in building nest compartments, rather like a stone mason constructing a house. After mating, males die and females begin collecting pollen and nectar to build nests. After laying her eggs (males at the front and females at the back), the female seals the entrance to the tubular nest using mud. Mason bees may nest inside reeds or holes in wood made by wood-boring insects, some British species make their nests in empty snail shells. Luckily for us, 3-4 females have chosen to use our bug box.

If you look closely, you may just be able to see the mud-sealed entrance to one of the nests
If you look closely, you may be able to see a nest being built with mud. The tubes being used are yet to be sealed with a ‘mud plug’ which indicates a completed nest.

mason bee

The bug box is in full sun, sited approximately 5′ 8″ high, this is the first time the box has been used by bees. The bees were very calm considering we were about, using the shed and nearby area as we usually would. Mason bees are usually non-aggressive and will only sting if they are really threatened, ie being held between fingers. They would much rather get on with the job of building a nest rather than defending it.

allotment

We’re thrilled to be able to watch the bees, they’re brilliant little pollinators and very welcome on our plot. Plot 4 is certainly living up to its name – The Little Haven.

Allotment Shed Makeover

blue allotment shed

Choosing to ignore mixed and confusing weather reports (along with a threatening sky on and off since the weekend), I decided to give our allotment shed a much-needed lick of paint. If you already follow me on Pinterest you will notice I have a ‘thing’ for blue sheds.

allotment shed

Naturally, blue was the colour I had in mind, although I did toy with the idea of painting our shed seagrass green. I finally settled on a shade of baby blue and now the shed is cheery and a welcoming sight.

The little bird box had a makeover too!
The little bird box had a makeover too!

The colour will also be a gorgeous backdrop for annuals that I love to grow in the raised bed surrounding the shed, such as shades of pink Cosmos ‘Sensation Mix’ and Sarah Raven’s ‘Bright Lights’ (deep orange and tangerine blooms, new for me this year). Sunflowers will dazzle against the baby blue (although I’m hoping at least one becomes a true giant and exceeds the shed height) and the fuzzy purple haze of perennial Verbena bonariensis will be even more striking. Foxgloves are almost ready to burst into flower and Lupins are not far behind.

Foxglove grown from seed, almost ready to flower
Foxglove grown from seed, almost ready to flower

Potatoes are growing and require ‘earthing up’ frequently, so far (touch wood) we’ve managed to keep the burrowing bunny out of the potato bed by laying a sheet of wire mesh on the area of interest, weighted down by bricks, although this will need to be removed very soon. Strawberries are looking promising with lovely large flowers, blackcurrants and redcurrants are swelling nicely.

allotment strawberry bed

strawberry flowers in May

blackcurrants

The rhubarb patch is looking incredible this year, we only planted it last year and it’s already trebled in size.

allotment rhubarb

I’ve put a lot of hours in at the allotment since the weekend, I’m delighted with how neat and tidy the plot is looking.

allotment

A few days ago we managed to source more free wood, this means we can get on and work the unused part of the plot this year. All of our raised beds are made using wood no longer needed by a shed company located next to the allotment site, they’re delighted when the allotment holders come along and take the wood away, putting it to good use. I’m looking forward to seeing the plot change again soon, not only from our input but with summer on the way too.