Mason bee or in some cases mortar bee is the commonly used name for the bee species Osmia of the family Megachilidae. Bees included under the mason bee genus are the horn faced bee, the blueberry bee, the red mason bee and the orchard mason bee.
They are typically shades of metallic blue, black or green with one species displaying a rusty red colour as shown by the orchard mason bee in the first image.
The female mason bee is equipped with a stinger for self-defence. Unlike some other bee species, mason bees are noted for their lack of aggression and are happy to live and forage in close proximity to humans so you are very unlikely to be stung.
In the rare case one does sting they are noted to be relatively unpainful with similarities to a small pinch and nothing like the pain experienced by a honeybee sting.
Mason bees typically emerge in early Spring and are seen all the way through to late summer. As a whole, the species prefer a temperate climate so are generally located in areas that don't experience large changes in temperature through the seasons.
Mason bees are most commonly known for their preference to nest in poorly maintained mortar and cement. They will either utilise existing holes in the mortar to use as nesting sites for their larva.
It's worth noting they will also nest in gutters, roofs, window frames, bricks and any other small cavities on your property.
Mason bees are referred to as generalists. This means that they are happy to forage and pollinate a wide range of flowers, trees and shrubs. Unlike honeybees, they will only forage close to their nest and primarily within a few dozen ft.
This practice means that they will generally utilise resources close to home so the location of the nest will dictate their pollination radius and the plants and flowers they visit.
Find out which plants are best for solitary bees in your garden.
Prolific pollinators and relatively unaggressive mason bees are fantastic for their surrounding habitat. The concern most often raised around these bees is their destruction of mortar and brickwork.
While this is true of the masonry bee it normally takes a very long time for the tiny holes mason/mortar bees create to have a detrimental effect on the structure of your property.
Much like other bees and insects, you can create a natural structure to encourage mason bees to nest.
Watch the two video parts below for a detailed guide on how to make your mason bee house with tubing/straws perfect for their nests.
The best way to attract any bees to your garden is to provide a diverse range of pollen and nectar-rich plants. We've written a detailed article on the best flower and plants for mason bees.
Check out our recommended Wildflower Mix to attract more Mason bees to your garden or wild area.
During the night mason bees will rest a the entrance to the brood chamber where they store their young. They will always face into the chamber with their abdomen flexed downwards acting as an obstacle to any unwanted predators.
Mason bees are different in several ways, most notably their size. Mason bees tend to be much smaller than honeybees to ensure they can fit into the small holes in masonry required for their nests.
Unlike honey bees, mason bees are not social bees and do not live in colonies, opting to live in solitary and raise their young as individuals.
Yes, mason bees will often be referred to as mortar bees due to their nesting habits. Because mason bees are often found in the holes left in old mortar they have been given the name mortar bees, particularly in the United States.
No, mason bees much like their namesake will repurpose and nest in existing holes to raise their larva as opposed to the masonry bee which will actively dig holes in old masonry and grout.
Some mason bees will opt to bury into old mortar across your property. While this can cause a problem over extended periods of time it really isn't a huge concern.
The damage caused by mason bees is in no way comparable to other invasive insects that may damage your property such as termites.
We would never advise using a deadly form of bee removal and we implore you do not to use any on your property. We've created a list of natural methods to prevent and remove mason bees without causing harm.
Believe it or not Cinnamon is a great option for trying to encourage mason bees to leave their nests and seek out new locations.
Creating a Vinegar solution and spraying it around the entrance of the nest will often encourage mason bees to seek out new accommodation. Simply mix a solution of half and half vinegar and water and spray liberally around the nest entrance.
Often the best form of defence against mason bees is prevention. Repointing your walls to fill in any small gaps will remove the ability of the mason bee to nest and will force them to look elsewhere for a suitable nest location.
Believe it or not, some plants actually repel bees, this goes against everything we know but a select species of plants will actually stop bees from entering your garden and in turn your property. These plants include:
Managed mason bee populations can be moved safely, wild mason bees can only be moved if the object they are nesting in can be removed from the property.
This is normally bricks and mortar so is rarely a suitable option for the removal of mason bees. Check out the video from Crown Bees below to learn more about moving managed mason bees:
Yes, despite being solitary bees mason bees will return to the same nests for years to follow so chances are if you're seeing mason bees now you will be for the foreseeable future too.
New maturing bees will often seek out new holes in the same masonry creating a community that spans several generations of bees.
Unlike honeybees that can rely on the warmth of the colony, mason bees cannot rely on the warmth of fellow inhabitants. Mature mason bees will overwinter in cocoons in their hibernated states to ensure they use as little energy as possible before reemerging in Spring.
Mason bees aren't a massive threat to your property and play a huge part in pollination in many areas. Now you've found everything you need to know about the mason bee why not check out one of our other short reads below.