A small solitary bee with golden yellowish to orangish hairs. The male has pale facial hair, whilst the female has black. Up to 14mm in length. It is called the Red Mason Bee for it rakes out old, loose mortar between bricks in walls to construct its nest cells before rendering them over again, but does not strictly utilise mortar cavities, but will use any cavity available.
In the early spring the females will mate then find a natural hollow or man-made one, having a particular liking to mortar in old walls. It will then make cells with mud and store collected pollen or nectar then lay a single egg in each cell. The hole is usually plugged before the female moves off to find another suitable cavity. The entombed larva will then remain in the cavity until the following spring when it will emerge as an adult. These bees are hardy to severe winters. Non aggressive bees which will not sting unless harmed. They are excellent early spring pollinators, especially of fruits. Feeds on nectar and pollen.
Seen April to July in many habitats, including gardens. Very common in southern Britain.
Photographs of Red Mason Bee (Osmia bicornis) taken in May 2015, rear garden, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2015. Camera used Nikon D3200, with Sigma 105mm macro lens.