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 email@example.com 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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