Say hello to this bee. She belongs to the genus Osmia, so I refer to her as an Osmia bee.
These bees are in the family Megachilidae, which are known as the leafcutter or Mason bees. So they are related to the bees that I am currently boarding in my bee condo. The Osmia bees are widespread, found in Eurasia and The New World. There are 135 species of Osmia found in North America, but they are more common in the west. Here in Tucson they are rare since they do not really like the heat. The photo was taken in my yard at the beginning of spring, when the wildflowers are blooming and the temperature is cool. I was excited to find this girl nesting in my yard! These bees nest pretty much anywhere they can. They are also solitary, so there is only one female per nest. They prefer cavities that someone else has created, like the bee condos or hollow plant stems. They have also been known to nest in snail shells!
Osmia bees are small to medium sized bees with robust bodies. Most of them are metallic…brilliant blue, green and even purple metallic colors. I think they are just beautifully colored. Osmia bees (as well as all the bees in the family Megachilidae) carry pollen on the underside of their abdomen, unlike most other bees that carry pollen on their back legs (a structure called the pollen basket). There are several species that are used for orchard pollination: Osmia lignaria a.k.a. blue orchard bee (native to N. America), Osmia cornifrons a.k.a. hornfaced bee (used in Japan), Osmia rufa a.k.a. red mason bee (used in Europe), and Osmia ribifloris a.k.a. blueberry bee (native to N.America).
There are several companies in N.America that are currently evaluating and trying to use the red mason and hornfaced bee for pollinating their orchards… I know of a few almond and blueberry orchards that are currently working on this.
Look for these beauties when you go out…especially all of you in California. They are abundant all across California. I have worked on 6 species in the San Bernardino Mountains. You all may need to go out and look at natures beauty during these tough times.