Red Mason Bee, Osmia rufa

The red mason bee (Osmia rufa or Osmia bicornis) is a solitary bee that can be found in a range that includes England, southern areas of Scotland, Sweden, Norway, North Africa, and Iran, among other areas. This species is typically seen during the spring and early summer months, but it can be seen until the end of June. Females hold two horns on top of the head, and a smaller sting than other bee species, while males do not hold horns or a sting.

Although the red mason bee is classified with other solitary bees, it is typically social and uses mud to build a home with many rooms within the main nest, which typically occurs in a preexisting hollow like empty snail shells or key holes. After breeding, male larvae are placed close to the entrance of the nest, which allows them to leave first once they have developed.

The red mason bee stores pollen that is moistened with a small amount of nectar, which larvae consume during the summer months. This keeps them through the fall and winter months until they develop into adult bees. Because of its diet, this bee is thought of as an important pollinator. These bees are very safe to handle and will only sting if handled too roughly.

Image Caption: This image shows an Red Mason Bee couple (osmia rufa). Credit: André Karwath/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 2.5)