While making some more notes on British bees, I was interested to read more about the funny little horned, female Osmia rufa.
The Osmia family in general are a really delightful bunch, not only hard working pollinators for your fruit trees but gentle too and ideal bees to keep in the garden.
I painted Osmia lignaria, the Blue Orchard bee for Deborah but that particular species is hornless.
The “horns” in question are two small protuberances which can be seen (if you get very up close and personal with the bee) just above the mandibles.
It seems they are used for shaping the mud which this clever little bee uses to build her nests, hence the common name “mason bee”.
The male O rufa on the other hand sports a fine white “moustache” and has longer more elegant antenna than the female.
I also remembered that I had a specimen of Osmia cornifrons which Karen Strickler at Pollinator Paradise had kindly sent me along with O lignaria.
This bee also has the curious horns on the female’s face. It’s not a native USA bee but was introduced from Japan in 1977 to help with orchard pollination. With the help of a magnifying lens I was able to make this drawing of the female cornifrons’ head complete with horns.
Osmia cornifrons face
She is much hairier than her rufa relation. Then a couple of studies of the Osmia rufa… cute male head at the top and female at the bottom. .
Osmia rufa faces, male and female
The female also has huge jaws which she uses to collect mud for the nest and presumably to make the nests too. I don’t have time to write more today but will return to these nice little bees very soon with more info and more drawings….