Female of Osmia (Neosmia) bicolor (Schrank, 1781) carrying leaf pulp into her nest in a snail shell of Arianta arbustorum to close the single brood cell within the shell. Foto A. Krebs.

Osmiini – a fascinating group of solitary bees

The osmiine bees (Megachilidae, Osmiini), which comprise 15 genera and roughly 1200 species worldwide, occur on all continents except South America, Australia and Antarctica (Michener, 2007; Praz et al., 2008b; Ungricht et al., 2008; but see Gonzalez and Griswold, 2011). They are especially diversified in mediterranean and desertic climates of southern Africa, southwestern North America and the Palaearctic. With 10 genera and about 700 species, the Palaearctic osmiine bee fauna is particularly diverse.

The osmiine bees are famous for their often spectacular and very diverse nest building behaviours as well as for their close relationships with flowering plants (Friese, 1923; Malyshev, 1937; Westrich, 1989; O’Toole and Raw, 1991; Müller et al., 1997; Cane et al., 2007; Praz et al., 2008a; Sedivy et al., 2008). Several Osmia species in Europe (e.g. O. cornuta), Asia (e.g. O. cornifrons) and North America (e.g. Osmia lignaria) are commercially used to pollinate the flowers of fruit trees (Bosch and Kemp, 2002). The outstanding diversity with respect to both species number and biology renders the Osmiini a most suitable model group for the study of the evolution of nesting biology and flower preferences in bees in general.

The osmiine bees constitute a tribe within the family Megachilidae, which is one of the nine currently recognized families of bees (Engel, 2005; Michener, 2007; Poinar and Danforth, 2006; Praz et al., 2008b; Hedtke et al., 2013; but see Danforth et al., 2006, and Michez et al., 2009):

Superfamily Apoidea Latreille, 1802

Series Apiformes

† Family Melittosphecidae Poinar & Danforth, 2006

† Family Paleomelittidae Engel, 2001

Family Melittidae Schenck, 1860

Family Andrenidae Latreille, 1802

Family Halictidae Thomson, 1869

Family Stenotritidae Cockerell, 1934

Family Colletidae Lepeletier, 1841

Family Apidae Latreille, 1802

Family Megachilidae Latreille, 1802

Subfamily Fideliinae Cockerell, 1932

Subfamily Megachilinae Latreille, 1802

† Tribe Glyptapini Cockerell, 1909

† Tribe Ctenoplectrellini Engel, 2001

Tribe Lithurgini Newman, 1834

Tribe Anthidiini Ashmead, 1899

Tribe Dioxyini Cockerell, 1902

Tribe Megachilini Latreille, 1802

Tribe Osmiini Newman, 1834

Chelostoma group

Heriades group

Osmia group

Intention of the website

The “Palaearctic Osmiine Bees” website intends to give a concentrated but concise overview on taxonomy, distribution, nesting biology and flower preferences of all osmiine bee species known to occur in the Palaearctic region. Scientific basis for the data on taxonomy and distribution is the recently published “Taxonomic catalogue of the Palaearctic bees of the tribe Osmiini” (Ungricht et al., 2008). The biological data are based on an extensive literature study on osmiine nesting biology (A. Müller, C. Praz, J. Neff, G. Le Goff and C. Sedivy, unpublished), on a compilation of flower records from the literature (A. Müller, unpublished) as well as on results of ongoing pollen-analytical studies at the Entomological Collection of the ETH Zürich. The information for each species will be updated and corrected in regular intervals. Important new findings or major corrections will be communicated and justified in the “Updates and Corrections” part of the website. Here, all interested readers are invited to scientifically comment on new entries by using the blog facility of the website.

To keep all bee taxonomists and biologists up to date, new synonymizations and lectotypifications will also be communicated, even if they are not yet published and therefore not valid under the terms of the rules of zoological nomenclature.

In addition to the species and genus accounts in the “Catalogue of Palaearctic species”, introductory pages treat Phylogeny and Classification, Biogeography, Diversity, Biology, Taxonomy, Faunistics and Fossil taxa in a more broader context, including osmiine taxa from outside the Palaearctic as well.

Plea for collaboration

Knowledge on the taxonomy, distribution and biology of the Palaearctic osmiine bees is still in a rather poor state. Therefore, the “Palaearctic Osmiine Bees” website is a construction site that needs to be continuously complemented with new information. Readers willing to share new distributional data, biological observations, pictures or unidentified osmiine material are warmly acknowledged.

Please contact

Andreas Müller, ETH Zürich, Entomological Collection, Schmelzbergstrasse 9/LFO, CH-8092 Zürich, Switzerland