Overview

Brief Summary

Bees in the genus Osmia are collectively called mason bees or orchard mason bees because they cap their nests with mud. Mason bees, along with leafcutter bees ( Megachile spp.), make up two main groups in the Megachilidae family. Mason bees are abundant throughout Europe, the Mediterranean basin, southwestern Asia, and western North America. They are also found in eastern North America and eastern Asia, but are less common; these bees are not found in the southern hemisphere.

Mason bees are typically metallic green or blue, but some species are blackish colored. Mason bees are easily recognized because, unlike most bees that carry pollen on their legs, they carry pollen on the underside of their abdomens. Generally mason bees are good pollinators of blooming fruit trees, such as apple (Malus domestica), apricot (Prunus armeniaca), peach (Prunus persica), plum (Prunus spp.), cherry (Prunus spp.), and pear (Pyrus spp.). They also pollinate strawberry (Fragaria spp.), raspberry (Rubus spp.), blackberry (Rubus spp.), cranberry (Vaccinium spp.), and blueberry (Vaccinium spp.).

  • Blue orchard bees and fruit tree pollination, www.Osmia.com
  • Field Conservation Management of Native Leafcutting and Mason Osmia Bees, C. S. Stubbs, F. A. Drummond, and D. E. Yarborough, University of Maine
  • Management of Hornfaced Bees for Orchard Pollination, Suzanne W. T. Batra, PollinatorParadise.com, March 1997
  • A Bee Garden for Attracting Osmia , Karen Strickler, www.PollinatorParadise.com
  • Osmia Bees, North Central Regional Plant Introduction Station, USDA Agricultural Research Service)
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Ecology

Associations

Flowering Plants Visited by Osmia spp. in Illinois

Osmia spp. Panzer: Megachilidae (Osmiini), Hymenoptera
(observations are from Clinebell & Bernhardt, Stoutamire, Campbell, and Motten)

Caryophyllaceae: Stellaria pubera fq (Cmp, Mtt); Orchidaceae: Cypripedium pubescens dead np (Stm); Portulacaceae: Claytonia virginica (Cmp, Mtt); Ranunculaceae: Anemonella thalictroides cp/exp (Mtt); Scrophulariaceae: Penstemon digitalis cp fq (CB), Penstemon pallidus cp fq (CB); Violaceae: Viola sororia (Mtt)

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In Great Britain and/or Ireland:
Animal / parasitoid / endoparasitoid
larva of Chrysura hirsuta is endoparasitoid of larva of Osmia

Animal / parasitoid / endoparasitoid
larva of Chrysura radians is endoparasitoid of larva of Osmia

Animal / parasitoid / endoparasitoid
solitary larva of Conops flavipes is endoparasitoid of adult of Osmia

Animal / parasite
larva of Stelis phaeoptera parasitises nest of Osmia

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Life History and Behavior

Life Cycle

Mason bees are solitary nesters, but are gregarious so prefer to nest in groups. Males emerge in the spring and females emerge several days later, living for about six weeks. Females mate soon after emerging and begin nesting within three to four days. Females lay a single egg on a nectar-pollen provision and then seal the cell with a thin mud plug. The female continues building the nest in this way and then seals it with a thick mud plug, laying as many as 35 eggs. Larvae hatch from the eggs after a few days and feed on the nectar-pollen provision. The larvae then go through a non-feeding pupal stage. Pupae turn into adults by mid-fall and emerge the following spring.

  • Field Conservation Management of Native Leafcutting and Mason Osmia Bees (C. S. Stubbs, F. A. Drummond, and D. E. Yarborough, University of Maine)
  • Osmia Bees (North Central Regional Plant Introduction Station, USDA Agricultural Research Service)
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Evolution and Systematics

Functional Adaptations

Functional adaptation

Nests are durable and humid: bees
 

The flower petal nests of Osmia avosetta bees are durable and humid because of their multi-layer design, with a hard layer sandwiched between organic layers.

   
  "With a flair for the colorful, O. avosetta makes a 'petal  sandwich' out of two layers [of] flower petals inside a small burrow it digs  in the ground, cementing them together with clay or mud. Then it caps  the chamber with a mud plug, which seals the humidity inside while  letting the outside harden. It's the perfect environment for the egg,  said Jerome Rozen, curator in the Division of Invertebrate Zoology at  the American Museum of Natural History." (Shipley 2010)
  Learn more about this functional adaptation.
  • Rozen Jr. JG; Özbek H; Ascher JS; Sedivy C; Praz C; Monfared A; Müller A. 2010. Nests, petal usage, floral preferences, and immatures of Osmia (Ozbekosmia) avosetta (Megachilidae: Megachilinae: Osmiini), including biological comparisons with other osmiine bees. American Museum Novitates. 3680: 1-22.
  • Shipley T. 2010. Bees build gorgeous underground flower-petal nests. Discovery News [Internet],
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD) Stats
Specimen Records: 2039
Specimens with Sequences: 1831
Specimens with Barcodes: 1695
Species: 226
Species With Barcodes: 201
Public Records: 175
Public Species: 28
Public BINs: 24
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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Osmia n. sp.

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 2
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Osmia aff. enixa 3

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Osmia sp. n.

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Osmia n. sp. aff. sladeni

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Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Osmia aff_grindeliae

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Osmia sp2_nr_enixa

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Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 2
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Osmia TJK-03

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Osmia sp3

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 2
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Osmia sp2

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Osmia sp1

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Osmia n sp aff sladeni

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Osmia MEX22

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Osmia melanosmia5

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Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Osmia melanosmia1

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Osmia melanosmia4

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Osmia cf. pusilla

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 17
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Osmia sp_Y5

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 2
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Osmia sp_Y4

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Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Osmia sp1-1395

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Specimens with Barcodes: 2
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Osmia bc17

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Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Osmia KGZ-01

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Osmia KGZ01

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 3
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Osmia n sp aff enixa 2

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Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 4
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Osmia SanDiego Sp.1

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 1
Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Osmia cf. clarescens

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Public Records: 1
Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Osmia bc3

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Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Barcode data

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Pollinator

Several species of mason bees are currently being used or are being studied for use as commercial pollinators. The hornfaced bee ( Osmia cornifrons ) is the primary pollinator of apple orchards in Japan, and has been cultivated for this purpose. It was introduced to the United States in the 1970's and is managed commercially to pollinate apple orchards in California, Oregon, and parts of the northeastern United States. The blue orchard bee ( Osmia lignaria ) is a great pollinator of early spring crops, and is managed commercially because it is easily reared, is a highly efficient pollinator, and requires fewer bees to pollinate crops than honey bees. The blueberry bee ( Osmia ribifloris ) is being evaluated as a commercial pollinator of blueberry in the eastern United States.

Mason bees make good commercial pollinators for several reasons. These bees naturally make nests in tunnels in wood and other cavities; this nesting habitat is easy to mimic and mason bees accept artificial nests. Additionally, these bees are low cost and require little care. In some cases mason bees are actually better pollinators than honey bees (Apis mellifera) because they fly in cooler weather and individual mason bees move more between trees.

  • Blue orchard bees and fruit tree pollination, www.Osmia.com
  • Field Conservation Management of Native Leafcutting and Mason Osmia Bees, C. S. Stubbs, F. A. Drummond, and D. E. Yarborough, University of Maine
  • Management of Hornfaced Bees for Orchard Pollination, Suzanne W. T. Batra, PollinatorParadise.com, March 1997
  • A Bee Garden for Attracting Osmia , Karen Strickler, www.PollinatorParadise.com
  • Osmia Bees, North Central Regional Plant Introduction Station, USDA Agricultural Research Service)
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Wikipedia

Mason bee

Mason bee is a common name for species of bees in the genus Osmia, of the family Megachilidae. They are named from their habit of making compartments of mud in their nests, which are made in hollow reeds or holes in wood made by wood-boring insects.

Species of the genus include the orchard mason bee, Osmia lignaria, the blueberry bee, O. ribifloris, and the hornfaced bee, O. cornifrons. The former two are native to the Americas and the latter to Japan, although O. lignaria and O. cornifrons have been moved from their native ranges for commercial purposes. The red mason bee, Osmia rufa, is found across the European continent. There are over 300 species across the Northern Hemisphere, and more than 130 species of mason bees in North America; most occur in the temperate regions, and are active from spring through late summer.

Osmia species are usually metallic green or blue, though many are blackish. Most have black ventral scopae which are difficult to notice unless laden with pollen. They have arolia between their claws, unlike Megachile or Anthidium species.

Life cycle[edit]

Home made nest block showing full occupation
Mason bee nest cell with egg on pollen bed
Mason bee nest cell with cocoon

Unlike honey bees (Apis) or bumblebees, Osmia are solitary; every female is fertile and makes her own nest, and there are no worker bees for these species. Solitary bees produce neither honey nor beeswax. They are immune from acarine and Varroa mites, but have their own unique parasites, pests and diseases.

The bees emerge from their cocoons in the spring, with males the first to come out. They remain near the nests waiting for the females. When the females emerge, they mate. The males die, and the females begin provisioning their nests.

Osmia females like to nest in narrow holes or tubes, typically naturally occurring tubular cavities. Most commonly this means hollow twigs, but sometimes abandoned nests of wood-boring beetles or carpenter bees, or even snail shells. They do not excavate their own nests. The material used for the cell can be clay or chewed plant tissue. The palearctic species O. avosetta is one of a few species known for lining the nest burrows with flower petals.[1] A female might inspect several potential nests before settling in.

Females then visit flowers to gather pollen and nectar, and many trips are needed to complete a pollen/nectar provision mass. Once a provision mass is complete, the bee backs into the hole and lays an egg on top of the mass. Then she creates a partition of "mud", which doubles as the back of the next cell. The process continues until she has filled the cavity. Female-destined eggs are laid in the back of the nest, and male eggs towards the front.

Once a bee has finished with a nest, she plugs the entrance to the tube, and then may seek out another nest location.

By the summer, the larva has consumed all of its provisions and begins spinning a cocoon around itself and enters the pupal stage, and the adult matures either in the fall or winter, hibernating inside its insulatory cocoon. Most Osmia species are found in places where the temperature drops below 0°C for long durations, like Canada, and they are well-adapted to cold winters.

Management[edit]

Spring mason bees (blue orchard and hornfaced) are increasingly cultivated to improve pollination for early spring fruit flowers. They are used sometimes as an alternative, but more often as an augmentation for European honey bees.

Most mason bees live in holes and are readily attracted to nesting holes; reeds, paper tubes, or nesting trays. Drilled blocks of wood are an option, but do not allow one to harvest the bees, which is vital to control a build-up of pests.[citation needed]

Blue orchard and hornfaced bees are spring season pollinators and will only sting if squeezed or stepped on. As such, they are beneficial and benign, since they both pollinate the plants and are safe for children and pets.

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Margeriet Dogterom, Pollination with Mason Bees

References[edit]

  1. ^ Holland, Jennifer S. (October 2010), "Flower Beds", National Geographic 218 (6) .
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