Mason bees, and other species of solitary bees, are very different from honey bees, so although this website is really about honeybees we thought we should include a little information about them. Bees in the genusĀ Osmiaare collectively called mason bees or orchard bees because they cap their nests with mud.

Mason bee or solitary bee house.

Several species of solitary 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.

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

You can easily provide a home for one of nature’s best pollinators. Of the more than 20,000 species of bees, two of the most common are the blue orchard bee and the horn-faced bee. One-half to two-thirds the size of a honey bee, these passive bees live only six to eight weeks but lay eggs in this house. The eggs remain dormant through the fall and winter, and offspring emerge in the spring to pollinate plants. Hangs near the garden and requires no maintenance. Or buy a house forĀ mason bees here.

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