The Two-Coloured Mason Bee is a cute insect with a unique approach to nest construction; where they'll use vacant snail shells to lay their eggs. These bees repurpose snail shells, where one shell can contain up to 5 larvae! The term 'helicophiles' was coined to describe the behaviour, translating to 'snail lovers'. Females are particularly choosy, so finding a suitable shell can be hard work; which is why O.bicolor will only make around seven snail-nests in a lifetime. Unfortunately, this unique behaviour makes these bees vulnerable to environmental pressures like climate change and habitat loss.
It can take a bee many trips until they have collected sufficient pollen for larvae, making them effective pollinators.
Adults: Osmia bicolor is a small bee, just reaching over 1cm. They're attractive, boasting bright gingery fuzz that covers the majority of the abdomen. Males are less striking in comparison.
Southern England and Wales.
These bees are among some of the first to emerge in the year. Help and encourage them to your garden by planting flowers which bloom as early as February.
It's not advised to treat gardens with bees. Plants which are in flower should not be sprayed if possible. Bees can be affected even if they weren't intended to be.
These bees become active as early as February, so they can be helped by planting early blooming flowers.