A familiar sound in Summer, is the high pitched buzzing of a female Mason Bee. Often we track the noise down & find the cells made of mud & clay, frequently with hapless spiders interred in them. We had to put cellotape on the vents on the TV because a Mason Bee kept arriving & going inside laden with mud. Our coats, which hang unused over the summer reveal clusters of cells, so too do the curtains. Our keyholes get filled up, as do any other likely crevices. This year as we moved the curtains, a whole collection of spiders fell out. Despite the books telling us that only Orb Spiders are collected, we had a fascinating variety, which inspired me to write about them. I Haven’t managed to find out what the lovely silver & yellow spider is.

Mason Bee Cells Spiders from a Mason Bee nest

In this close up photo below, you can see the Mason Bee’s egg waiting to hatch.

Close up, wasp egg is just off centre

Close up, wasp egg is just off centre

The female makes the cell, then collects spiders, which she stings to paralyse them, buzzing away happily while she works. Once the cell is packed with food supplies, she lays an egg & seals it shut. The egg hatches & the larva feeds on the preserved spiders. It’s a bit grim! Often we find empty cells with a hollow brown cocoon, which is all that’s left when the next generation emerge & fly away.

The Mason Bee itself is quite demur, a small black insect, maybe 10 to 15mm in length. They are native to New Zealand & Australia. I haven’t a photo of one to put in here, the high buzzing sound is often the first indication that you have a Mason Bee in your house. They don’t sting people the way a German Wasp does, so unless they are gumming up the insides of your TV you can leave them to go about their business, or even encourage them by setting up  some hollow sticks etc in the garden to provide a nesting site. There are some cool ideas for these on the internet. I was thinking that these days, a lot of people get their houses sprayed to kill spiders & other critters, & this probably makes the Mason Bee a less common visitor than it used to be.

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