A week or so ago, while out on one of those fabulously sunny days we had before the rains came back, I was surprised by a nice bright orange butterfly streaking through the garden. I only caught a glimpse, mostly color, so I don't know which of the anglewings it was, but it was a joy to see, and surprising for the first butterfly of the season. Mourning Cloaks, unfortunately, are not very common in my garden, I only get straglers from the wooded park once every five years or so, but I do get several late winter butterflies if I look closely enough to see them- Pine Elfins and Nelson's Hairstreaks are pretty commonly the earliest butterflies I see, mostly sunning themselves around the rockery where a salal bush gives them food and protection. Cabbage Whites are almost as commonly the first ones, though lately they seem to be decreasing in numbers, despite the cabbage/kale thing I grow specifically for them. And of course Spring Azures occassionally make it out early enough to live up to their name. For the mason bees, what I remember is that they want morning sun in winter to wake up properly. East facing would work, south would be fine too, though you may want to move the filled blocks into a shadier area once it gets warm in summer to prevent them from overheating. My main block is one the south side of the house which is shaded by two large maples in summer, so is protected. As far as the mites are concerned, since I am not asking them to work (ie, polinate our pathetic excuse for an old apple), I try to offer enough blocks that they can move into a new one if the old one gets too many mites. Overall, I think the population stabilizes all right, assuming you have enough blocks. And every few years I try and remember to make a new one for a fresh start. The mites are part of the natural cycle, I figure the bees will adapt if given a chance. Oddly enough, I think I have a different species than the one described in the book. Mine are a bit bigger, and seem more active later in the season than he describes. <shrug> Brett Johnson Green Man Gardens firstname.lastname@example.org
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