• Joe Dlugo

The Many Mason Bees of My Garden


A great many blue orchard bee females poking their head out of nest tubes as they get ready to start the day.
Blue Orchard Bees ~ Osmia lignaria

Mason bees are pretty popular these days. According to the marketing hype, they’re amazing. You can buy them at the local nursery, order them online, set up a bee hotel to grow more fruit and simultaneously save the bees! It was this message that years ago brought me to the world of maintaining a bee hotel, but it wasn’t long until I realized it is only a small part of a much bigger story.


Virtually all the fussing about mason bees for your garden concerns just one species: the blue orchard mason bee, Osmia lignaria. Although the stats show their pollination abilities are first rate and they’re relatively easy to care for, not to mention fascinating and fun to watch, to stop short of knowing about their equally fascinating

130 North American cousins in the genus Osmia and 60 in the genus Hoplitis would be the loss of an opportunity to see some of nature’s most beautiful bees. As an added bonus, many species can be managed in bee hotels Just like blue orchard bees.


Here’s a sampling of bees from just my neighborhood in the southern Puget Sound region. It’s likely you have a good variety in your own backyard, so head on out and have a look. Spring and early summer are the times you’ll see them.


An iridescent green and blue male Osmia aglaia standing in portrait against a white background
Osmia aglaia ~ Green Berry Bee

A dark green mason bee, probably Osmia caerulescens, visits the many-tendriled pink bloom of a bull thistle flower.
Osmia caerulescens (?) ~ Blue Mason Bee

A large and chunky, heavy-legged mason bee, Osmia longula, seen in portait against a white background.
Osmia longula

An Osmia mason bee with a mix of white and orange hair and heavily-spotted green eyes seen in portrait against a white background.
Unknown Species

Peering out of an old nail hole in wood, an Osmia mason bee with tawny colored hair is seen in the center of the hole.
Osmia ~ Unknown Species

Hoplitis albifrons mason bee grasping a chunk of leaf in her mandibles.  The bee is black with blue eyes and white hairs.
Hoplitis sp. ~ likely Hoplitis albifrons

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Joe Dlugo photographing bees on a tallgrass prairie

Joe Dlugo

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This is the product of many long afternoons in the garden, planting seeds, pulling weeds, watching bees.

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Bee Image Galleries

 

The world is a lovely place that has thousands of different kinds of bees. Contrary to popular opinion, few of are actually colored black and yellow. In fact, a great many are green - like those in the photo above.  Most also do not live in hives making honey and beeswax. They do other exciting things. I hope you find this intriguing and want to dive into my bee photo galleries to see the diversity of their world for yourself. 

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