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Photo credit Steve Peterson .jpg
(Image: Steve Peterson)

WA boasts only program in U.S. where you can host mason bees

Animal lovers can now foster more than just puppies and kittens. How about providing a temporary home for some of earth’s most important tiny creatures – bees! Albert Einstein once professed that if bees disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would have only four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man.

One Seattle area company, Rent Mason Bees, is working to help save the bees and the future of food production by promoting the health of mason bees. Mason bees are critical pollinators to food system and ecosystems, and now families and gardeners in the western United States who want their gardens pollinated can help by hosting bees in their backyards.

“We provide everything our customers need for hosting bees during the spring season,” said Olivia Shangrow, biologist and Operations Manager at Rent Mason Bees. “The bees are hosted in the spring when they pollinate in backyards. The females lay their eggs in the nesting boxes, then in the fall, we extract the bees cocoons and clean them by ridding them of mites or fungus. The new generation of bees is stored over the winter, then in spring we give them to farmers who utilize them to help in food system production.”

Mason bees are industrious and can visit over 2,000 flowers a day. It takes only 400 female mason bees to do the work of 40,000 honeybees, and the best part is, they don’t sting and are non-aggressive and safe around children. Because they are solitary bees, there is no queen bee to protect, so they have no reason to be defensive. These friendly pollinators co-exist with honeybees and assist with pollination so the honeybees are not overburdened. It’s a win-win!

“We are losing significant bee habitat, so by renting native bees for people to use in their backyards, we can help them flourish,” said owner Jim Watts. “We’re always looking for more renters to host bees. We need the right environment and habitats to encourage them to pollinate and move around.”

Tending bees is no small task, which is why six years ago, Rent Mason Bees decided to do the hard work for you. The only mason bee renter in the United States, the company designed their program so that host families only need to hang up a mason bee block and let the valuable insects go to work. At the end of the season, when the blocks need to be cleaned stored, Rent Mason Bees steps in and takes care of everything. Hosts mail their nesting blocks full of eggs back to Rent Mason Bees where they are harvested and safely stored for winter hibernation.

In the spring, the healthy mason bee cocoons are distributed to farmers along the West Coast to pollinate crops. Mason bees are natural acrobats, as they pollinate 95% of the flowers they land on by belly flopping onto the flower and covering their bodies with pollen. As a result of this novel program, healthy bees are introduced into the ecosystem and food production increases.

“One renter has an apple tree in their yard that used to grow only a handful of apples a year,” said Watts. “After utilizing the mason bees, they had to prop up the branches of tree with two by fours because they were producing so many apples.”

Even those who don’t garden or have a green thumb can host bees. Rent Mason Bees provides both mason bees and leafcutter bees, which are considered "generalist pollinators." This means they can find pollen and nectar just about anywhere. The only thing they need are some blooming daytime flowers and they’re good to go.

“It’s an easy and accessible way to have bees in your backyard,” said Shangrow. “Whether it’s to pollinate a small yard, or fruit trees, we provide a service to our customers so they don’t have to take care of bees year-round.”

For information about being a host, visit