Osmia rufa

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Osmia rufa
Osmia rufa couple (aka).jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Megachilidae
Genus: Osmia
Species: O. rufa
Binomial name
Osmia rufa
(Linnaeus, 1758)

Osmia bicornis

Osmia rufa or Osmia bicornis is a species of mason bee,[1][2][3] and is known as the red mason bee due to its covering of dense gingery hair.[4]

The species is most active during the spring and early summer although it may be seen into late June. Despite being classed as solitary, these bees can be seen gathering, or aggregating.[1] The female is larger/broader than the male and has two large horns on the head.[2] The male has a white tuft of hair on its face.[4] The female has a much smaller sting than honeybees or wasps.[3]

Osmia rufa nest in preexisting hollows, choosing not to excavate their own,[3] and have been known to nest in key holes, empty snail shells,[2] plant stems and empty beetle hollows. Male larvae are placed in front of the females within the nest allowing the males to emerge first in the spring.[1] These bees store mostly pollen moistened with a small amount of nectar[3] which is eaten by the larvae during the summer before they rest through the winter in a cocoon. The female will create six to eight cells in four to five different nests in her short life.[5]

Red mason bees are excellent pollinators, particularly of apple trees.[1]

These bees are not aggressive and will only sting if handled very roughly between the fingers[3] and they are safe to be closely observed by children.[1][3]


Osmia rufa is found in England, southern Scotland (possibly northern Scotland as well), Wales,[4] mainland Europe, Sweden, Norway, North Africa, Georgia, Turkey and Iran.


  1. ^ a b c d e Natural History Museum - Swarm-like behaviour of red mason solitary bees - retrieved 2013-08-14
  2. ^ a b c INSECTS - Collins gem guide ISBN 0-00-458818-5
  3. ^ a b c d e f Buckingham Nurseries
  4. ^ a b c Wild Life Trusts
  5. ^ Cheshire Beekeepers Association