What do you think of when you think of bees? Honey? Flowers? Pollen? What kind of bee do

you see in your mind’s eye?


I think most people could be forgiven for having a picture of just

one kind of bee, a big fluffy bumblebee with yellow and black stripes. I know that’s what I

always used to draw as a child when I was drawing pictures of bees and flowers! Or it might

be the honeybee, the only bee in the world that actually makes honey, although talking of

bees and honey seems to be synonymous for a lot of people.

In my own garden I’ve identified 23 different species of bee so far: the honeybee, 7

bumblebees out of the 25 bumblebee species that are found in the United Kingdom, and the

remainder being just a tiny fraction of the 20,000 or so solitary bee species that exist in the

world ­ that’s right, 20,000! In the UK alone, we have over 200 species of solitary bees.


The red mason bee is the solitary bee that I see most frequently in the garden between the

months of March and June, dependent on weather however; sometimes it appears earlier if

we have a warm spring, or later, if the weather is less than favourable. Its latin names,

Osmia rufa and Osmia bicornis, give an indication as to its appearance: rufa from the latin

rufus, roughly translating as red, or reddish, and bicornis ­ two­horned. Covered in gingery

red hairs, and the females having two tiny horns on their faces, these little bees are avid

users of the solitary bee nest box that I made and installed last spring.

Along with other bees, Osmia bicornis is incredibly easy to attract into your own garden.

Ensure you have a wide variety of flowers in bloom that are pollen and nectar rich, starting to

flower from around late February. Don’t be too tidy in the garden ­ lots of bees like to use log

piles, compost heaps and old plant stems to nest in. If you have space, make and put up a

bee nest box ideally situated around 1.5 metres off the ground and south facing.


All of our pollinators, and not just our bees, are in real trouble for a wide variety of reasons ­

habitat loss, pesticide use, climate change. If we all did a little bit in our own back gardens to

help these incredibly important little creatures, that’s a step in the right direction and could

help to slow the decline in bee numbers and possibly even reverse it. I remain hopeful!


About Emma: Emma is an award winning garden wildlife photographer based on the

Derbyshire border. The vast majority of her photographs are taken in her own back garden,

where she is a keen gardener and always tries to garden with wildlife in mind. She's never

happier than when she's got her camera in her hand and soil under her nails!