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Can anyone help?

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Joined 2012-08-15

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Hi,

Our marvellous solitary bees are out and about, and we have two different types at present, or are they? I think the reddish one is is the Red Mason, but is the other one a Blue Mason? or a male/female Red Mason? Or something completely different? It almost looks like a Red Mason that’s worn off it’s fluff! We seem to have about even numbers of each.

All help very gratefully received…with only some of the tubes in our bee box hatched, we already have a lovely collection of around 20 bees and the pear tree is really benefitting! :D

Tess

     

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Total Posts: 271

Joined 2012-05-24

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Hello Tess35,

We’d better wait for a skilled diagnosis from Elaine, but I suspect that they are both Osmia rufa; and that you are showing two examples of the same species, with one the one on the left having much less fur-wear. 
The long antennae make me think that both are males.

The males hatch first and hang about waiting to mate with emerging females.
The activity cycle happens about the time of apple tree flowering.

A few years ago Dr Chris O’Toole wrote a small book called The Red Mason Bee: Taking the sting out of beekeeping.  It is a good source of information about this type of bee.  Around that time “Bee Nesters” (Baked-bean-like tins on their side and filled with cardboard tubes.) became commercially available in Garden Centres etc.

Osmia rufa collects pollen on a ‘brush’ type structure under the abdomen, called a scopa.  They are much less effective at cleaning pollen grains off their body fur than honey bees; and have been declared to be some 200 times as effective as pollinators than honey bees.  Part of this is due to less grooming, part is because they flit around from tree to tree much more than honey bees.

And yes, I’m not surprised that your Pear trees are benefitting !

I hope this helps.          Yours           Clive

     
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Thank you so much for the speedy response! That would make sense to be the same bee…I had wondered why two types would be emerging at exactly the same time.

We have three bee boxes in our tiny garden and they are packed….looks like we’re going to have a bumper bee year!

Best wishes

Tess

     
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Joined 2012-05-31

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Hi both

Clive you know more than I do!
I totally concur with your analysis.
Definitely male, really long antennae, and the black one does look like a balding Osmia bicornis (rufa).

cheers, elaine

     
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Many thanks Elaine. After watching them for a few weeks, they have gradually become more and more ‘shiny’. Poor things! Must be all that territorial in and out of tubes! :D

Tess

     
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Joined 2013-01-10

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Hi Tess35,
As Clive & Elaine said, your pics are of males, but if you want entertainment next spring,  try putting up “solitary bee nesting tubes” or short lengths of bamboo canes for any emerging female Red and Blue Mason bees to find and use for their nests.  You will then be able to watch them at work and learn to tell the difference between Reds and Blues , because the Reds use mouthfuls of mud to construct their brood cells [different colours depending on where they collect it from]; and the Blues use chewed up leaf mastic for theirs [which forms a greenish-brown concave surface when dry].  Other bees that sometimes use the tubes are the leaf cutters [Megachile sp.]  These cut round and oval leaf pieces from roses,  lilac and other plants, to construct their cells.  I once watched a female leaf cutter bee fly off from her bamboo cane nest and it took a count of 30 for her to return with a fresh piece of leaf, which she pushed into place [it was the last cell],  and then scissored off the surplus with her mandibles [just like an upholsterer finishing a chair!].  Gardens are great for bumbles and solitaries.
urbanbumble

     
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Thanks urbanbumble….

We’ve got 3 boxes which are now just about full (around 50 odd tubes) we get red masons earlier in the year, then what I now know to be blue masons, and at the mo the leafcutters are very hectic. Spent hours this week watching them clear out the old leaf litter and then decimate my roses (‘now shall I cut from this leaf, or this one, no, not this one, ooooo look a nice fresh one, that will do!!!?’) before staggering back to their tubes with leaf slung under.

We often lose human visitors for an hour or two in garden…the bees are so addictive to watch!

Tess