Within the genus Osmia, the three subgenera Osmia, Monosmia, and Orientosmia form a closely-related group of predominantly pollen generalist (‘polylectic’) mason bees. Despite the great scientific and economic interest in several species of this clade, which are promoted commercially for orchard pollination, their phylogenetic relationships remain poorly understood. We inferred the phylogeny of 21 Osmia species belonging to this clade by applying Bayesian and maximum likelihood methods based on five genes and morphology. Because our results revealed paraphyly of the largest subgenus (Osmia s.s.), we synonymized Monosmia and Orientosmia under Osmia s.s. Microscopical analysis of female pollen loads revealed that five species are specialized (‘oligolectic’) on Fabaceae or Boraginaceae, whereas the remaining species are polylectic, harvesting pollen from up to 19 plant families. Polylecty appears to be the ancestral state, with oligolectic lineages having evolved twice independently. Among the polylectic species, several intriguing patterns of host plant use were found, suggesting that host plant choice of these bees is constrained to different degrees and governed by flower morphology, pollen chemistry or nectar availability, thus supporting previous findings on predominantly oligolectic clades of bees. © 2013 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2014, 111, 78–91.