Navigate / search

Osmia mason bee inside a dog’s footprint

Yes, you read that right. I have an irritating dog. I mean, he doesn’t think he’s irritating, but I certainly do. Yesterday, I had just planted a new bush, raked smooth the adjoining soil, and put away the tools. When I came back, the dog was standing on my work and peeing on the pristine bush. When he walked off, he left a two-inch deep footprint in the soft soil.

Not five minutes later I saw something moving inside the footprint—something shiny, glinting in the morning sun. At first I thought it was one of those metallic flies, but what I found was a busy little mason bee, scrabbling away at a new-found treasure: wet dirt.

The work of the mason bee

She worked hard at balling up the mud, but it didn’t take her long, and soon she was off with a wad of it secured between her mandibles. I went for my camera and only had to wait for about three minutes before she came back to do it all over again.

It amazes me how fast she learned where the footprint was because it wasn’t there at all until the dog peed. She found it within five minutes while it was still wet inside, and then made repeated trips back and forth between her nesting tube and the footprint.

The colors of mud

I never think of my soil as being that different from one spot to the next, but after all the mason bee tubes are filled, they display a kaliedoscope of brown, yellow, and red mud plugs. I often wonder if mud selection is more complicated than we think. Instead of just consistency, perhaps certain soils have microbes or nutrients that aid the overwintering process in some way. Like the honey bee’s selection of propolis, perhaps mud selection is a survival skill. I don’t know, but I wonder. It seems that bees seldom do anything by accident.

Rusty
Honey Bee Suite

Opportunity: an Osmia mason bee inside my dog's footprint.
Opportunity: an Osmia mason bee inside my dog’s footprint. © Rusty Burlew.
This Osmia mason bee is facing up on the vertical wall of the footprint. I love looking at all the different colors of mud the bees find. © Rusty Burlew.
This Osmia mason bee is facing up on the vertical wall of the footprint. I love looking at all the different colors of mud the bees find. © Rusty Burlew.

Comments

Dinah
Reply

I wonder if the mud was especially attractive because of minerals (?) in the urine…

Rusty
Reply

Probably.

Dan Geiger
Reply

By planting the bush you probably brought some clay to the surface. Did the urine scent attract the mason bee? How cool that the mason bee is making a form of adobe. Do you think a 4 1/2 inch syrup can would be deep enough for a nest? Reuse before recycle.
Dan G

Rusty
Reply

Dan,

I know that honey bees are attracted to urine, so mason bees probably are too. Yes, 4.5 inches is plenty deep enough.

sharon
Reply

Well. you can learn something new every day…..honeybees are attracted to urine. Who knew???? I wonder if there’s a protein component.

Rusty
Reply

Sharon,

I’ve heard people say it’s the salt, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s more than that.

Craig
Reply

Since bees are know to be drawn to stinky water and salt doesn’t really have a strong scent, I’m guessing it might be the ammonia?

Rusty
Reply

Craig,

Could be. I honestly don’t know.

Dieter
Reply

“… the dog was standing on my work and peeing on the pristine bush. When he walked off, he left a two-inch deep footprint in the soft soil …”.

Consider yourself lucky that it was only your dog that trampled on your gardening skills. I was extracting honey, stacking up the empty supers outside when I heard the pile came crashing down. When I opened the door to check there was a Grizzly only 3 m away. Not a fully grown one “just” a “small” one, maybe 3 or 4 years old. Yet too big that you wanted to get into an argument with. I stood up to my full size, including tip toes, raised my hands and uttered a cry which would have paled Tarzan’s. The bear was only marginally impressed and looked at me over his shoulder. I cranked up my Tarzan challenging cry and took a courageous step forward always having the door in my back as a safety device to hide behind. Slowly and visibly annoyed the bear lowered to his front paws, another disapproving view towards me and then trotting away, first through my potatoes and then trampling my Swiss chard, lettuce and red beets. I still would have preferred a dog peeing on my potatoes.

Rusty
Reply

Dieter,

You are brave! I would have hidden inside.

Dieter
Reply

Rusty, you know what, I was more afraid of bylaw officers showing up than of the bear, asking me all kinds of questions, why, what I am doing, etc. and maybe wanting to inspect my premises for anything that may be “illegal” in their view. I just want as little “Town” in my face as any possible. You don’t seem to have that kind of problem in your “suburb”. That spurred my “courage”..

Ray
Reply

Hi Rusty,

Always something new to learn!

Where I live in the UK we get a lot of Tawny Mining Bees, Andrena Fulva, and I’m always tickled by the multitude of different colour subsoils being excavated by these clever little bees. I am a gardener by trade so I’m outside all year round and am lucky enough to be able to observe the annual cycle of the birds and bees. I do love to see the Tawny bees flying low over the lawns, lit up by the Spring sunshine, glowing like sparks from a fire.

Thanks as always Rusty.

Glen Buschmann
Reply

Rusty, thanks for the chortle — but I’m not too surprised. When out seeking butterflies, my spouse has made a request of me, more than once, that I create a ‘special’ mud puddle as a lure. The boy in me of course delighted in the idea, and once I looked around to assure myself that this would not unsettle some unsuspecting stroller, I complied. It isn’t just piddle puddles that bring out butterflies — they regularly frequent animal scat as well. One can find beauty in the oddest places.

Rusty
Reply

Glen,

You can skip that part when we’re out looking for bugs together. 🙂

Leave a comment

name*

email* (not published)

website

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.