The Red Mason Bee (Osmia rufa)
The Red Mason Bee is widespread in England and Wales and particularly
likes the range of flowers and trees found in domestic gardens.
It is active from late March to the beginning of June and a more
efficient pollinator of fruit crops than the honeybee. By attracting
them to your garden not only will you notice improved fruit crops
- apples, plums, pears, strawberries and raspberries - but the bees
also visit a wide range of garden flowers.
Life history of the Red Mason Bee (Osmia rufa)
The Red Mason Bee is a solitary bee. That is, each nest tube is
the work of a single female working alone; unlike the honeybees
and bumblebees, there is no worker caste of sterile females.
The bee is widespread and common in England and Wales and extends
north into Scotland as far as Edinburgh. It is widely distributed
in continental Europe and even penetrates into the Mediterranean
are covered with a dense, gingery fur. The males are 6-11mm long
with a dense tuft of white hairs on the front of the head. The more
robust females are 10-16mm in length. Their heads are entirely black-haired
and is larger and squarer than that of the males. This is to accommodate
the large muscles associated with the powerful jaws used to excavate
species has an annual life cycle. Males and females emerge in early
spring (late March to April) and mate. Females then seek out suitable
nest sites usually beetle borings in dead wood, hollow plant stems,
or irregular cavities in stones and old walls. Each nest tube comprises
a series of cells. The female starts her first cell at the back
of the nest. She makes 10 to 15 foraging trips to collect sufficient
pollen to provision each cell. The pollen is mixed with a little
nectar and this acts as a food source for the single egg, which
she lays immediately before sealing the cell with a mud partition.
The process is repeated until the tube is filled with a row of about
6 to 10 cells.
finish nesting in early June. Being a solitary species they will
never live to see their offspring. However in the comfort of their
nests, the eggs hatch into larvae, which feed on the pollen/nectar
mixture. After moulting 4 or 5 times, the full grown larvae spins
a tough brown silk cocoon and pupates. The new adults form in September
and remain in the cocoon until the following spring when the new
generation of adults emerge and the cycle begins again.
Females tend to nest close to where they emerge and the design
of the Oxford
Bee Company nest box is such that it will attract a number of
nesting females, many of whose daughters will re-use their natal
nests the following season. Thus a permanent nesting population
will be established in your garden. This can be enhanced by adding
further nest boxes if desired.
The Blue Mason Bee (Osmia coerulescens)
The Blue Mason Bee, Osmia coerulescens is an excellent pollinator
of garden herbs and visits a wide range of garden flowers. It is
smaller than the Red Mason Bee and makes its appearance slightly
later and continues nesting until the end of July/early August.
The females are dark blue-black bees with metalic reflections,
about 10-12mm long, sparsely covered with brown hairs those on the
abdomen in the form of a narrow, dense, flattened band on the hind
margin of each of the segments. The dense brush of pollen transporting
hairs (scopa) on the underside of the abdomen is jet black.
The males are slightly smaller, more slender in build, distinctly
metallic green and clothed with pale hairs. The males often appear
first and loiter around the nests seeking mates. They are active
for about three weeks.
Their life cycle is similar to the Red Mason Bee except that it
is starts nesting in late May and continues until the end of July/early
August. It also uses leaf mastic rather than mud for building nests.