Alphabetical Plant Listing

Mason Bee

Orchard Bee, Genus Osmia

A mason bee is a solitary bee known for its ability to pollinate plants and flowers. Unlike honeybees, which live in large colonies, mason bees are solitary insects that do not form hives or produce honey. Instead, they build individual nests and lay their eggs in small holes or crevices.

Mason bees are considered non-aggressive, making them a safe and desirable addition to any garden. By providing a suitable habitat and food source for mason bees, you can encourage them to establish a presence in your garden and help to pollinate your plants.

Where to find them

Over 300 species are found across the Northern Hemisphere. Most occur in temperate habitats and are active from spring through late summer.


Mason bees are typically small to medium-sized bees, with a size range of about 1/4 to 25/32 inches (6 to 20 mm).

In terms of physical appearance, mason bees have a compact and cylindrical body shape, with a fuzzy, fur-like hair covering. They are usually dark in color, ranging from metallic blue or green to black, with some species having distinctive yellow or orange markings. Their legs are usually short and stubby, with pollen baskets on the hind legs used to carry pollen back to their nests.

The mouthparts of mason bees are designed for biting and chewing as they collect mud and other materials to construct their nests. They also have two large compound eyes used for navigation and foraging. 

Life Cycle

The life cycle of a mason bee typically consists of four stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult.

  1. Egg: The female mason bee will lay an egg inside a cell of her nest, which she has previously constructed and provisioned with a mixture of pollen and nectar.

  2. Larva: After the egg hatches, the larva feeds on the stored food provisions and grows rapidly. During this stage, the larva undergoes several molts and transforms into a pupa.

  3. Pupa: Once the larva has finished consuming the food stores, it will spin a cocoon around itself and pupate. During this stage, the pupa undergoes metamorphosis, transforming from a larva into an adult bee.

  4. Adult: After about a week or two, the adult bee emerges from its cocoon as a fully formed adult. The adult mason bee will mate, forage for food, and continue the cycle by laying eggs and building nests.

Overall, the life cycle of a mason bee can vary depending on environmental factors, such as temperature and food availability. In temperate climates, the life cycle of a mason bee typically takes between 4 to 6 weeks, while in tropical climates, it can take several months.

Why a Beneficial Insect?

Mason bees are beneficial insects for several reasons:

  1. Effective Pollinators: Mason bees are highly efficient pollinators, as they collect pollen on their bodies and transfer it from flower to flower as they move about the garden. This helps to increase the yield and quality of fruits and vegetables in gardens, as well as wildflowers in meadows and other natural habitats.

  2. Non-Aggressive: Mason bees are considered non-aggressive, making them a safe and desirable addition to any garden. Unlike honeybees, which can become defensive when their hives are disturbed, mason bees are not known to sting unless handled roughly.

  3. Require Little Maintenance: Unlike honeybees, which require a constant supply of food and careful management, mason bees are low-maintenance insects that do not need to be managed or cared for once they have established a presence in the garden.

  4. Supporting Biodiversity: By supporting the populations of mason bees and other pollinators, you can help to promote biodiversity and maintain healthy ecosystems in your garden and surrounding areas.

  5. Climate Resilience: Mason bees are able to adapt to a range of environmental conditions, including changes in temperature and precipitation levels. As such, they are considered to be more climate-resilient than other types of pollinators, such as honeybees.

Overall, mason bees are a valuable and beneficial addition to any garden and can help to support the growth and health of plants and other wildlife.

Attract this Beneficial Insect to your Garden

Here are some steps to attract mason bees to your garden:

  1. Plant native flowering plants: Provide a variety of flowers that bloom at different times of the year, such as blueberries, cherries, plums, and raspberries. These plants will provide nectar and pollen for the bees.

  2. Provide a source of water: Bees need a source of water to drink and cool off in hot weather. A shallow dish of water with pebbles or rocks in it can serve this purpose.

  3. Offer a nesting site: Mason bees prefer to nest in hollow stems, holes in wood, or pre-made mason bee houses. Place the bee house in a sunny location and protect it from the wind.

  4. Avoid using pesticides: Pesticides can harm or kill bees, so avoid using them in your garden. Instead, opt for natural pest control methods such as hand-picking pests, using beneficial insects, and maintaining healthy soil.

  5. Create a diverse landscape: A diverse landscape with various plants, flowers, and habitats will provide food, shelter, and nesting sites for mason bees and other pollinators.

By following these steps, you can create an attractive and hospitable environment for mason bees and help them thrive in your garden.

Guide Information

HWall, Shutterstock

While every effort has been made to describe these plants accurately, please keep in mind that height, bloom time, and color may differ in various climates. The description of these plants has been written based on numerous outside resources.

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