My azaleas are blooming and lighting up the yard with purple, and the largest of them has become a bee magnet.
It not only attracts honey bees,
it also attracts mason bees and I’m only now learning the difference.
My hubby put up a mason bee house a couple years ago under the eaves of our home.
We recently noticed bees flying around it and entering the holes. Actually, my husband noticed it. I was puzzled as to me they looked like flies.
In fact, they’re roughly the same size, but these native, solitary, insects are mason bees, expert cross pollinators, of the genus, Osmia.
They don’t have hives and they don’t make honey, but they do gather pollen, some say, more effectively than honey bees.
Here’s the story.
When the bees hatch in the spring they emerge males first, followed by females. After mating the males soon die and the female looks for a nest.
Then she collects pollen from shrubs and flowers and deposits it inside the narrow chamber. Once she has a sufficient nugget of pollen, she lays an egg on top, then follows up with a partition of mud to seal off the compartment – hence the name mason bee.
She does this repeatedly until the chamber is filled with eggs, then plugs the entrance to the tube.
Inside, the larva eats the pollen, then spins a cocoon and enters the pupal stage, maturing and hibernating through the winter. In spring the males exit the nest first, then females, and the cycle of life continues.
The mason bees that emerged from their house recently were greeted by this giant azalea.
Off to a good start.