Elder stems for bees

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Last autumn I read the Knox Cellars <http://www.knoxcellars.com/>
orchard mason bee newsletters that are online.  One of the notes talked
about bundling up elder stems for bee nesting spots, especially for
Ceratina spp. bees
<http://creatures.ifas.ufl.edu/misc/bees/ceratina.htm> which burrow
into the pith.  Since I have a blue elder that needed pruning, it
seemed just the thing.  I now have a big pile of elder stems in a wide
range of sizes, mostly in single sections, one 'joint' each.  They're
probably too fresh and damp for this year.  Many are trying to sprout,
poor things, even though I cut them in December.  I'll probably put out
a few, and dry the rest for next year.

I also did a more general web search for bees and elder, and found a
mention at the WSU? gardening site (which I can't find again, sigh)
that said you should hollow out the stems.  I assume, because I can't
remember, that the hollowing out would favor mason bees?  Anyway, I
figured I'd hollow out a few for variety.  Hah.  I'd love to know how
the WSU guys do it!  I can't ream it effectively by hand (I've tried an
awl, a needle, and a hand held drill bit), because the pith just
compresses, and I suspect that it could still hold quite a bit of
moisture, causing a fungus problem.  Drilling it compresses it less,
but then you're left with the slight curviness of the stems--the bit
won't go in very far.  And in any case, I don't have any long drill
bits, which is why I still don't have any regular mason bee blocks.
Failing further instructions, I guess any potential residents around
here will have to take care of pith removal themselves!

Now I'm left with the bundling problem.  Those stem joints presumably
help keep the predators out, but they also keep the stems from lying
next to each other nicely.  If I just grab a bunch and tie them, it all
quickly falls apart.  Same with cramming them into tin cans.  Ooh, just
had a thought--maybe I can use modeling clay to stick them together.
Surely there's some around here somewhere...maybe I'll find it by next
spring!
-- 
Allyn Weaks    allyn@tardigrade.net   Seattle, WA  Sunset zone 5
Pacific NW Native Wildlife Gardening: http://www.tardigrade.org/natives/
"The benefit of even limited monopolies is too doubtful, to be opposed
to that of their general suppression."  Thomas Jefferson


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