• Keep your Leafcutter Bees in the fridge until you are prepared to incubate them.
• Place your leafcutter bees in a seed starting tray with a sealed greenhouse dome on top and vermiculite or an Ecocoir layer to add padding and prevent excessive moisture. You can also keep the bees in a Styrofoam cooler with the lid slightly ajar to allow for air movement.
• The key is to maintain the temperature between 23-25o C, closer to 30o C is best, however, overheating your leafcutter cells will cause damage to the bees!
• Keep your bees in 100% darkness. Place a towel over the greenhouse dome for this. Males will emerge first, and the darkness will keep them in dormancy to prevent them from wasting energy. Females will begin to emerge 2-3 days after the first males emerge. Once the largest population of bees have emerged (75%), you can release your bees.
• Incubation will take 21-30 days. Emergence generally is seen on the 18-19th day.
• When releasing, your bee house should be in a protected area, such as under an eavestrough or in a shadier area, protected from winds and intense direct heat. Leafcutters can survive the direct sun, but it is recommended not to have them in high heat areas.
• Releasing your bees should be done in the morning or evening to allow the bees time to find their home. Place your incubation unit underneath the bee house and release.
• Leafcutter bees are gentle and rarely sting. Since they are living, always be respectful and be gentle when releasing. Take off the lid and allow the bees to escape on their own terms. You can gather up the incubation unit after a few hours.
• Make sure to disinfect your incubation unit to prevent disease and parasites for the following year.
• In the fall when you have harvested your garden and cleaned up the yard, you will need to care for your bee cells.
• Remove the cell blocks from your bee house and place into a cardboard box.
• Put into cold storage (try to stay near 4o C, but no lower than -10o C) for the winter.
Once the temperatures increase again in the spring, you can remove the cells and incubate again.