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Mason bee “menage a trois”

Caught in the act! This mason bee threesome was photographed by UK beekeeper Philippa Burgess. She got the shot a couple of years ago as the little tower of bees perched in her back garden for thirty minutes or more.

Although we don’t have this species in the states, these bees appear to be Osmia rufa, also known as the red mason bee, a very common in species in Europe. The female is both larger and hairier than the males; the males are more slender with unmistakably white faces.

As with other bees in the family Megachilidae, the male red mason emerges first and hangs around the nest area waiting for females to emerge. Males compete for females and may mate many times during their short lives.

As soon as the female mates, she begins to search for suitable nest locations, such as abandoned insect holes, cracks in wood, or hollow reeds. Once she chooses a home, she begins the process of collecting provisions—both nectar and pollen—and laying eggs. The female red mason uses mud to build partitions between the egg chambers and to seal the entrance to her nest.

These bees are active six to eight weeks in late spring. Once the eggs are laid, it takes about 15 weeks for the baby bee to become an adult. This adult bee, still in a cocoon, spends the remainder of the winter in a resting stage, and will not emerge until the following spring.

In this unusual photo, it appears that both males found the female at the same time. Soon, the males will move on looking for other mates, and the female will begin her life’s work.

Great catch, Philippa. Thanks so much for sharing!

Osmia rufu mating threesome
A mating threesome, Osmia rufa. © Philippa Burgess.


Observation hive for sale

SOLD! But be sure to check out Greg’s site. Thanks.

This is just a quick note to let you know that my friend Greg Long, a beekeeper and awesome woodworker in Oregon, has an Ulster style observation hive for sale. This creation is part beehive, part furniture, and part art. I guarantee you will fall in love with it when you see it.

I’m sure it will be snapped up quickly, but while you are on his site, be sure to check out his other items. I can tell you from experience that his woodworking is second to none.

Notice Board . . .

In case you missed it: A Song of the Bees

An A-list of bee books

Even though she grew up in a frugal rural family, my mother always believed that if a cookbook delivered just one great recipe, it was worth the price. After all, she would use that recipe countless times and perhaps pass it on to others.

Today, I feel the same way about bee books. If I get one snippet from a bee book that improves my skills or deepens my understanding of bees, then the book was worth both the time and the money.

In these modern times fraught with honey bee problems and native bee disappearance, there is an ever-expanding library to pick from. Here are a few of my current favorites for you to consider.

The Beekeepers’s Handbook, Fourth Edition by Diana Sammataro and Alphonse Avitabile. 2011. This is my first choice for an overall beginner how-to book. The sequence is logical, the explanations are clear and concise, and it gives you enough to get going without overwhelming your brain. Many clear diagrams, bulleted lists, and appendices. If you can buy only one beekeeping book, this is the one.

Bee Time: Lessons from the Hive by Mark L. Winson. 2014. This book is both a memoir of the author’s life and a dissection of the many disturbing aspects of a contemporary bee’s life—from Varroa mites to CCD. Winston’s love of honey bees shines through every word he writes, and he makes us think about how we might learn from the bees and become better stewards of our dwindling natural resources.

The Bee: A Natural History by Noah Wilson-Rich. 2014. It has always been my contention that understanding bees generally—all of them—makes one a better beekeeper. Conversely, you don’t need to be a beekeeper to enjoy the fascinating pas de deux between flower and bee. Not a beekeeping how-to, this book puts honey bees in the context of all bees and explains their relevance to our daily lives

Bee by Rose-Lynn Fisher, 2010. This is picture book for honey bee lovers. The photographs, taken with the aid of an electron microscope, reveal the honey bee and all her parts in stunning detail. Whether you are a beekeeper, gardener, photographer or just curious, this book is a joy. This is nothing like seeing the parts up close to understand how they all work together to pollinate our world.

California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists by Gordon W. Frankie et al. 2014. You don’t have to be from California to appreciate this book. The book details the basic families of bees and the plants they like using colorful photos of both. It also explains the complex relationship between bees and flowers and explores ways to build better native bee habitat.

A Sting in the Tale: My Adventures with Bumblebees by Dave Goulson. 2014. Some books I don’t want to end, and this was one. It reads like a cross between a novel and an adventure story as it follows the author’s fascination with bumble bees from childhood to the founding of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust. Along the way you will learn more about bumbles than you ever thought possible.

*Click on book jackets for more information.


This post contains affiliate links.

Homes for Other Pollinators

Supplies for cavity-dwelling bees such as Osmia (“mason bees”) and leafcutting bees:

Wildlife World Interactive Mason Bee House. Comes apart for easy cleaning. Constructed From FSC Certified Sustainable Timber.

Popular solitary bee house with various sizes of bamboo tubes. Will attract Osmia and other solitary bees.

Insect hotel will attract a variety of insects, including bees.

One hundred six-inch cardboard nesting tubes of 5/16-inch diameter. Great for use as replacement tubes.

Both tubes and container are made from all biodegradable materials.

Metal-roofed solitary bee house.

Click on any image for more information at Amazon.com.

*This list contain affiliate links.