wild bees and native bees

A garden gem


Berry bees, Osmia aglaia, amaze me because they appear brilliant blue or green depending on the light. Sometimes, they reflect both at once.

Since they are called berry bees, I used to think they were specialist bees, but they are not. This year I have seen them on just about everything in my garden including clover, lavender, salvia, phacelia, nepeta, blackberries, sneezeweed, and hawksbeard. They are small and quick, darting from flower to flower almost faster than you can see.

Like other Osmia bees, they readily nest in tubes, especially small ones a quarter inch or less in diameter. These bees are native to western Washington, Oregon, and California and are sometimes raised to pollinate berry crops.

I never get tired of watching them sparkle in the sun, first green, then blue, but always spectacular.


Osmia aglaia in air

Osmia aglaia approaching a phacelia flower. © Rusty Burlew.

Osmia aglaia approaching salvia

Looking green, this Osmia aglaia is approaching a salvia flower. © Rusty Burlew.

Osmia aglaia on salvia

Once in the salvia, she looks blue. © Rusty Burlew.

Osmia aglaia on Physalia

Two female Osmia aglaia cavorting in the phacelia. © Rusty Burlew.


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    • Julee,

      Yes! I have read about these. They are in the same genus of bee, Osmia, as the ones in my photo. Small world.

  • What an interesting introduction to yet another type of bee. Thank you for the educational postings.

  • Beautiful photos as always! And now I know what that bee is — I’ve seen a few around recently. Love how shiny they are.

  • Hi Rusty,

    We have something here in Colombia that looks similar, but my first thought was that it is a fly. It is shiny metallic green the size of a large bumble bee and it just hovers. It’s amazing how still they can hang in the air. I’ve tried to get pictures of them but they do dart away pretty quickly. Last week there were about three or four of them up at my hives on a rare sunny day here.

    • Daren,

      It could be a hover fly. Many of the flies have absolutely beautiful colors, and many of them are metallic. Plus, they like to hover!

  • Garden in Black Diamond, Wa. has been found by many black, not hornets, flying insects, smaller than honey bees and bigger than Mason bees. Black head, heavy black antennae, body black and in photo looks like white segment stripes. They are going crazy over the Thyme, fast flyers, and chasing the honey bees off the blooms. I haven’t figured out how to send you a photo for tentative identification. My daughter is guessing some sort of leaf cutter bee since something has also been eating her dahlia leaves. I’m not convinced.

  • I’m ordering some berry bees from Raintree Nursery. I’ve been searching for information on taking care of them. There just doesn’t seem to be anything on them. Do you handle them the same as your mason bees, other then releasing them in early spring? Thank you for your help. 🙂

    • Sharon,

      Berry bees are mason bees, so you handle them the same way. I put all my tube-nesting bees out at the same time in early spring. Each variety will hatch when it is ready.

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