Honeybees and Mason Bees by Winston Wong

It was a delight to have such a personable “bee enthusiast” present at our meeting! Winston Wong is the owner of “BC Bee Supply” and his customers range from backyard beekeepers to commercial apiaries. Today’s presentation included information on both Mason Bees and Honeybees.

Mason Bees

The Mason bee (Osmia lignaria), also known as the blue orchard bee, is one of the 4000 bees native to North America.  Note that native bees prefer native plants.  (Too bad our fuchsias and begonias are not native!)  They are one of the earliest bees to hatch in spring and are prized pollinators.  Another advantage is that they are non-aggressive solitary bees, so they don’t swarm and they rarely sting.  Mason bees feed on nectar and collect pollen.  Unlike honeybees, they only travel about 300 feet (about 90 meters) from their homes.

Winston told us that mason bees are already around our neighbourhoods, nesting in small dark cavities and cracks in stones (even Italian tiles!) Commercial “Bee Houses” come in many styles and Winston showed us quite a variety, from a simple DIY bee box to a 100 hole “condo”!  A cover for the rain should overhang the entrance.  A front guard against predators and birds is helpful.  Nesting tubes are placed inside the bee box. A 3/8 inch hole is the perfect size for the cardboard nesting tubes or environmentally friendly corn plastic trays, which are placed inside the houses.  The bee house should be mounted near eye level so you can see it, reach it, but still keep it away from ground critters. The best orientation is facing the East or the South, as it is warmer than North facing. Because the mason bees don’t travel far, 2 to 3 stories (for example, in an apartment building) is as high as Winston would recommend. Remember too that native flowers need to be close by.  All wildlife requires a water source, but mason bees also require a “mud source”! (Winston even sells a special mud clay container which has a wick to keep it moist!)

Winston described the mason bee life cycle, starting with the cocoons, which can be initially purchased from his store.  The little cocoon box is placed inside the bee house, with a slot opened. February or March has the best temperatures, as at 12 to 14 degrees they begin to hatch. The males hatch first and in nature, they are laid at the front (outside end) of the “tube”.  After the females emerge and are fertilized, they collect pollen and begin laying their eggs.  A single egg is laid in the back of the tube, along with a supply of pollen. The female then brings back mud to make a little “plug”. This seals the egg off, protecting it and keeping it dark. She will bring back more pollen, lay another egg, and create a new mud door about 6 to 8 times, in the same tube.  Females have the ability to choose the sex of their eggs, and will lay females at the back and males at the front!  This is why the commercial tubes need to be about a 6 inch length. The females may lay a total of 30 to 40 eggs (filling about 6 tubes) in the spring.  The larvae hatch in the summer, and consume the pollen, staying inside their little space.

October is the time to bring the cocoons in to protect them from birds and other insects.  Winston explained that you open the tubes to extract the cocoons and then wash them to clean off parasites, such as pollen mites or the Houdini fly. The cocoons are totally waterproof and will float in a dish of water.  A small amount of bleach can be added as well. Clean, dry cocoons are then kept in a cool dark place, such a fridge, until the next spring.

Do you need early pollination but this sounds like too much work for you?  You can rent a condo! The suppliers will bring the container and at end of summer they take it back! Lol!



Raising honeybees is definitely a more intensive project, but Winston noted that the big advantage is reaping the benefits of honey, beeswax, and royal jelly! More people are becoming interested in keeping beehives, but there are some restrictions and bylaws.  Coops and apartments may not allow bee hives. Although it is not a law, you can register your hive with the Ministry of Agriculture, and be informed in case of outbreaks, disease and so on.  Our club member, Don Carter, is very experienced with large scale beekeeping. He told us that there is also some enforcement about how many bee hives you may have, particularly if your neighbour is also a beekeeper.


Honeybees are great pollinators and as most of our species are from Europe, they are not fussy about needing native plants. Honeybees circle the hive to get a visual of home before heading out several miles from their hive. “Honey” is the combination of nectar and a special enzyme in the bee glands. Winston explained that honeybees pass flower nectar from bee to bee and then into the wax cells. Then they fan the cells which reduces the water. When the liquid is the right consistency, they cap off the cell. Honey is used partly for beebread, partly for royal jelly, and especially as a food resource in the winter.  Bee pollen, also known as beebread, is the primary protein food source for the hive.  Royal jelly is a special secretion from the nurse bees and is fed to the larvae.

BC Supply has a “starter kit” with all the essentials for the beginner beekeeper. The wooden boxes (hives) have inner frames which can be removed to extract the honey.  Other important items include a Protective Jacket, Protective Gloves, Bee Brush, Hive Tool, Regular Smoker, and Smoker Fuel. Most important of all, Winston provides instructions and guidance! (He did mention that he has had 18 stings himself this year.)

BC Bee supply started a honey exchange program because every beekeeper’s honey has a unique taste! The difference is, of course, due to the flowers of the local area. Honey can also be infused with fruits and herbs such as strawberry and lavender.  Winston is careful to say that his honey is “natural” unpasteurized honey, but not necessarily “organic” seeing as you can’t control where the bees go!  Eating local pollen or local honey may help you combat allergies. BTW, children under 1 year of age should not be fed unpasteurized honey because of the possibility of botulism.

The question came up about “Manuka honey”. This honey is from a bush in Australia and New Zealand. The medicinal quality is very high, but some people are abusing the claim by saying their honey has a higher percentage of Manuka honey than it does. There may be some olive oil or corn syrup adulteration going on.

One surprising drawback to beekeeping came up… bee poop and bee wax are sticky! Just like the aphid honeydew prevalent on Linden trees, it can coat the neighbour’s car or house! Even Winston said that maybe beehives should be restricted to the countryside rather than the city.

If you decide to visit Winston’s store (rear door entrance), “The Honey Hub, you will get the double bonus of visiting his wife Ninna’s “Muckabout” Gift and artisan store at the front door.  I have often been intrigued by that name as I drove past, and now I have TWO reasons to go investigate!

Thank you so much, Winston, for giving us such an informative presentation on two of our important pollinators!  Those of us who are acquainted with mason bees enjoyed hearing some new tips and facts, and if you didn’t convince us that the honey is worth the possible “stings”, we at least know where to buy some top notch honey!

Winston displayed this particular honey, and after reading about it on the website, I simply HAD to include the description!  Yum!
“The translucent raw honey is complimented with Chez Christophe’s signature 63.6% Montreux blend, a balanced dark chocolate with a hint of smokiness using single origin beans from Madagascar, Ecuador and Papua New Guinea, creating a smooth and delectable sensation.”

BC Bee Supply is housed in the basement of 4759 Hastings Street and is geared to new and returning beekeepers. www.BCBeeSupply.ca








Honey Hub was opened at 4347 Hastings Street last December and offers the most unique selection of honey in Western Canada.  Currently, we use part of the BC Bee Supply website – https://bcbeesupply.com/collections/honey-hub-store-items





Muckabout Gift Gallery started in late 2016 and is a local artisan gift shop boasting over 100 artists and locally made beloved items, and several lines of art supplies to allow customers to DIY their own art. 4759 Hastings Street – www.muckabout.ca






Winston Wong Speaker Bio.

Winston Wong was raised in North Burnaby and is now proudly serving the community through three “local” businesses. He started as a beekeeping hobbyist, and is now a province wide business owner.  Winston says, “My family and I have been gardening for the past few years – mainly vegetables and herbs but now that we’re loaded with pollinators, we’re getting more into flowers. We have a great deal of passion for improving the environment, our neighbourhoods and encouraging others to do the same.”

The Burnaby Heights Green Business Leader Award was given to BC Bee Supply in 2019. He has also received the Environmental Green Star from the City of Burnaby and was nominated for the Entrepreneurial Spirit and Environmental Awareness awards by the BBOT. Winston says, “We do everything we can around here to be efficient, reduce waste, and always make use of things old and new, so we were honored to be recognized for these efforts.”


Mason Bees

Website of the distinguished Margriet Dogterom

Conservation Management of North American Mason Bees

Exploring the Mason Bee Life Cycle

Everything you need to know about Mason Bees

Build a DIY house



A website dedicated to beekeeping

Honeybee Center (Surrey, BC): Learn everything about the world of honeybees

10 ways to infuse honey

Recipes with infused honey

BC Backyard beekeeping on the rise

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