mason bees

A lewd and lascivious swim in the soup

You’d think my backyard was some kind of bee bordello. Behind my house, a large group of male mason bees is hovering, darting, circling and bumbling along the roof line. Occasionally one lands on the pollinator housing to rest, while another suns himself on the windowsill. But a newly-hatched female Osmia peeking out of her tube is enough to stir them all up, and the frenetic careening begins anew.

One mating pair was on the side of my house. When I tried to get a photo, the pair dropped off the siding and landed in a foil-lined flower pot that contained three inches of malevolent-looking rainwater.

Much to my surprise, the water bothered them not a bit. The male must have found the girl of his dreams because, without separating, they circled round and round in the disgusting water, tracing little ripples on the surface. After I clicked a few shots, I reached in and rescued them, placing them on the edge of the foil. Believe it or not, liberation at the hands of an impossibly large human (at least in bees terms) deterred them not in the least.

About a minute later, the attached pair dropped from the foil and landed in the sun. The male, looking bedraggled and damp, was destined for a bad-hair day. The female seemed infinitely patient.

Finally, after another two or three minutes, the male flew away. The female groomed her antennae, fluttered her wet wings, then flashed away. I wonder if they would have drowned if I hadn’t fished them out. I wonder if they are always so oblivious while they’re rolling in the hay. . . . Wow, the things we do for love.


A mating pair of mason bees drops in a pot of water.

A mating pair of mason bees drops in a pot of water. © Rusty Burlew.

The  bee couple sitting on a piece of foil, dripping wet.

The bee couple sitting on a piece of foil, dripping wet. © Rusty Burlew.

Undeterred, the bees dry off in the sun.

Undeterred, the bees dry off in the sun. © Rusty Burlew.


  • Awesome pictures Rusty and I love the story.

    I have a question: do bees use nectar as a food source before they have converted it to honey?

    • Anna,

      I believe so. The native bees certainly do, and you will often see both male and female native bees sipping nectar. Based on that, I believe a hungry honey bee will consume nectar out in the field. What I don’t know is how they would regulate the passage of it out of the honey stomach and into the digesting stomach. One thing about honey bees, they are very complicated! This is a question worth further research: I will put in on my list.

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