Saturday, November 5, 2016

leaf cutter bee cocoon harvest

it is november and it is time to harvest the alfalfa leaf cutter bee cocoons from the nesting block and prepare them for winter storage...there had been six plugged tubes originally, however only two remained undisturbed by parasites/predators...when i opened the nesting block i found that the bees had been busy..there were well over a hundred cocoons in the tubes...unfortunately all but twenty-eight had been destroyed by predators...i even found two dead bees in the tubes...females who had expired after their time was done...i discarded the compromised and empty cocoons and then cleaned the remaining intact ones in a solution of one cup of water and one tablespoon of bleach to kill any mites or fungus that might be on the cocoon..i stirred them in the solution for three minutes and then rinsed them in cool clean water...when the process was complete i laid them out on a paper towel to dry while i prepared a container...i cut out a circle of paper towel to match bottom diameter of the container...then i cut a slightly larger circle out of an old plastic drainage pan for a flower pot that had been molded with channels that would keep the plastic above the paper towel in the bottom...i punched holes in the plastic and then poured a tablespoon of water onto the paper towel. put the plastic in and spread the cocoons out over it...this will keep the cocoons in air more humid than the arid refrigerator so they don't dry out killing the larvae...then i put the container in the vegetable crisper with some seeds ( grape ) i am stratifying for next spring...i will need to check the cocoons weekly to make sure they are not molding...if i find mold i will need to remove the container and clean it and tho cocoons in more bleach solution before returning them to the crisper where they will stay until june when the average daytime high is seventy degrees or better ( your kind of weather Jean ) and i can put hem out to hatch..i will probably purchase more cocoons to release next summer as well and, with luck, will have a more robust population of cocoons to increase the number of viable larvae that escape predators...another generation of bees should be on the way..the more the better.

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