Friday, May 22, 2020

My Little Chewy: Osmia caerulescens

Hi there, my name's Chewy!

There's a small blue bee in your garden that is doing a lot of pollinating for you and it's time you learned her name! She's a cousin of the famous Blue Orchard Mason Bee (Osmia lignaria). Her name is simply the blue mason bee (Osmia caerulescens), but I like to call her "Chewy".

Right now she's the major pollinator of my small pineapple strawberry blossoms.  As you can see, her head and thorax sometimes have an iridescent green tinge. I suspect she's been chewing on those petals and using them as material for her nest. She loves to chew on the leaves on my little sour cherry bush.

Like her cousin, the blue orchard bee, or BOB, she nests in cavities. She loves to nest in the thin bamboo poles in my garden and the hollow giant fennel stalks I cut down to about 1 foot and leave for the bees.

Gentle and curious, the males and female love to sun themselves on perches in my garden. They like a piece of painted wood I put down on the ground to suppress the weeds.

Chewy collects pollen on branched hairs called setae located on her belly, just like the blue orchard mason bee.

The males are smaller than the females and they are bronze. They each sport a very cute blonde moustache.

Besides strawberries, they are also pollinating my black cap raspberries and my garden variety raspberries that my neighbour Catherine gave me.

They also love the forget-me-nots and the thyme growing in my little raised bed. Thyme is also a medicine cabinet plant for bees which contains the active component thymol, that helps bees fight parasites and disease.

 Besides these small shallow flowers, you might be surprised that little Chewy loves our native large-leaved lupin flowers and she's an expert at standing on the keel of the blossom so the  flower dusts her belly with pollen!

I also have some claytonia (the pink flowers) blooming in this bed, but see smaller bees such as Dialictus pollinating that plant.

These small ground-nesting Andrena miserabilis also help pollinate berry flowers and many fruit tree flowers as well.

 I was also surprised to see a cuckoo wasp in the strawberry flowers. It has a remarkable amount of pollen on its body despite the lack of branched hairs. The light grey pollen is from the nearby raspberries.

These brown and black velvet Andrena are about the size of a honey bee. You'll also see them in berry and rose flowers.

So we really need to show gratitude for some of these lesser-known native bees for pollinating our berries and rose hips!

I also just wanted to notes that the small raised bed with the strawberries also contains bush peas, wild garlic, perennial sweet peas, sneezeweed, garlic, and Egytian walking onions. You can pack a lot into a small space to feed humans and bees--a mini Victory Garden for Bees.

For more information on B.C.'s native bees, check out the British Columbia Native Bee Society:

If you're curious about what I'm up to these days, check out the blog for our artist residency at Terra Nova in Richmond, B. C. :

I hope you are all staying safe and connecting with nature in these difficult times. Bee well!