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6. Winter Cocoon Management

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6a.  Removing loose cocoons. 
6b.  Where and how to store cocoons.
6c. 
Checking for mold and dryness.
 

6a.  Removing loose cocoons.

Orchard bees must experience cold temperatures during the winter for several months in order to emerge successfully in the spring.  Ideal temperatures are between 36 and 39oF, 2 - 4oC and about 60% relative humidity. If you are using straws, open some nests to check for the presence of mites and other parasites. We carry pre-slit straw liners to make it easy to see what's in the nest.

If you are using our Binderboard without straw liners, the cocoons should be removed and cleaned in late fall or early winter.  The best time to do this is November- December.  Remove the roof and bolts from the Binderboard, so it can be opened easily.  A screw driver can be used to pry each layer of laminates apart.  Use the plastic pusher end of our bolt tightening device or our nest scraper to remove cocoons.  A carrot peeler also works well.

Collect cocoons, mud and other debris in a plastic tub.  Transfer cocoons and debris to a mesh strainer or a mesh basket such as the kind sold in many stores for office supplies (WalMart, Target, Office Depot and other stores all carry versions of file folders, cd storage baskets, waste baskets and pencil holders that work for this purpose).  Rinse in cold water to remove the mud.  Rinse in 0.05% bleach (~1 tbsp 5% hypochlorite in 4 qt of water) to loosen mites, then rinse in cold water to remove the mites and to rinse off the bleach.  Remove any remaining debris and cocoons that are soft, have parasite holes, or otherwise are questionable.  Allow cocoons to dry in a single layer, then place in an appropriate container in cold storage.

Washing bleach off of cocoons in a utility sink.

 

Clean Binderboard pages by painting them with a brush dipped in bleach water.  Allow to dry for a few hours and then replace the bolts and roof so laminates (pages) don't warp.

 See Dogterom, "Pollination with Mason Bees" for more information about loose cocoon management

 

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6b.  Where and how to store cocoons

If you have purchased cocoons from Pollinator Paradise, when cocoons arrive, remove them from their insulated shipping carton.  If there is blue ice inside the emergence box, remove it. 

Store cocoons at 36 - 39oF (2 - 4oC) and 60 - 80% RH.   The vegetable drawer in a refrigerator is good, or leave them in a cold place outdoors.   In dry climates, or in the refrigerator, keep cocoons in a plastic container or bag with air holes to help maintain humidity.   Cottage cheese containers with holes in the lid work well.  Our cocoons are shipped in a small plastic bag with holes in it.  The plastic bag is placed in a cardboard emergence box.  This also works well.

Store cocoons where they will not be in standing water or snow, and where rodents, birds, spiders, ants and other predators cant get at them.

If storing cocoons out of doors, move them temporarily into a refrigerator if the temperatures exceed 45F (7C) for more than 3 or 4 days or if temperatures are expected to fall below 10F (-12C) in the storage area.  By mid February to late March if temperatures warm, the cocoons may need to be moved to a refrigerator until shortly before bloom.

 

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6c.  Checking for mold and dryness

Stir cocoons weekly to check for mold.   If mold develops, rinse affected cocoons in 0.05% bleach   (~1 tbsp 5% hypochlorite in 4 qt of water), then dry.   

If cocoons seem to be too dry, moisten slightly or add a damp paper towel.  To dampen cocoons, moisten your fingers with cold water and stir cocoons gently with your fingers, until cocoons darken from dampness.  Do this once a week to once a month, depending on humidity.  If you are in a dry area and mold develops, you may be moistening the cocoons too much.  Allow cocoons to dry longer.

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Pollinator Paradise      Pollination Ecology at UI    The Solitary Bee Web   
 Rearing Solitary Bees    Suppliers    References   Bee Gardens    FAQ   Links    Contact Us  
New Mexico Native Bee Pollinator Project   About Dr. Strickler 
Bee Nests and Accessories
  Bee Photo Gallery

Page added 1/1/2009