Belongs to: solitary bees

Red mason bee Osmia rufa

Best time to see: late Mar to early Jun

Key facts

A solitary (i.e each female has its own nest) bee covered with gingery hairs, important as a pollinator of fruit trees

Widespread across England and lowland Scotland

Nest readily in artificial homes such as short lengths of cane or 6 mm to 10 mm holes drilled in blocks of wood


Females are up to 16 mm long, covered with reddish-brown hairs

Males are smaller, with a tuft of white hairs on the front of the head


Females build nests in spring in existing holes in wood or masonry, or in plant stems

They lays eggs in a series of cells lined with mud and separated by mud walls, providing pollen as food

Young eat the food during the summer, then spin a cocoon and pupate, over-wintering as adults to emerge in spring

© Peter Harvey