Leafcutter Bee

Megachile spp.

Leafcutter Bee, Leafcutting Bee, Mortar Bee, Resin Bee

profile iconMegachile incerta copulation 1
by Gidip (CC BY 3.0)
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A close up of two copulating bees belonging to Megachile genus
profile iconMegachile incerta copulation 1
by Gidip (CC BY 3.0)
1 of 9
Leafcutter bees are a cosmopolitan group, meaning species belonging to Megachile are found worldwide. Leafcutters are solitary bees, meaning females will care for their young alone. They're well-known for their unique nesting behaviour. Semi-circular leaf cutouts are carried between the hindlegs back to the nesting site. The female bees use the materials to construct individual thimble-sized cells. Nests can be built in anything from rotting wood to hollowed plant stems. Some have even been spotted nesting in a pile of old umbrellas. Females collect pollen and nectar, and from this, make a small sticky ball of pollen called bee bread. A female bee carefully places the bread in a cell, before laying an egg on top. Once safely closed off, she repeats the above all summer long. Her young emerge as bees the following Spring! There are 37 known species of leaf cutter bee in South Africa, but there could be more to be discovered!
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Traits

These bees visit hundreds of flowers in a day, doing substantial pollination.
They snip leaves and petals to build burrows for their young.

Appearance

Adult: Generally speaking, Leaf Cutter Bees look a little like honey bees, but with more fuzz! The thorax is covered in bands of hairs, which can be silver, white, yellow, brown or red (depending on species). The underside of the abdomen is also very fluffy; officially known as the scopa, which is the pollen-collecting apparatus. The undersides of Leaf Cutter Bees can be painted with orange, pink, and purple, based on the flowers they've been foraging. The eyes are large, ovular and black; the antennae short. Larvae & Eggs: Gardeners seldom see these because they are all burrowed away in nests, but imagine a grub-like insect for reference—the cells constructed from plant matter, appear like delicate and carefully assembled parcels.

Symptoms

Almost perfect, semi-circular notches missing from leaf margins. Damage is only aesthetic. They can sometimes nest in wall cavities.

Activity

Diurnal

Personality

Order

Hymenoptera

Family

Megachilidae

Metamorphosis

Complete

Distribution

Every continent but Antarctica.

Biological treatment

You don't need to treat gardens with these insects. Solitary bees already have many natural enemies, such as cuckoo bees, who parasitise leaf cutter nests. Attract these fascinating insects into your garden by providing a selection of indigenous plants, which flower during different periods of the year. That way, you'll keep them fed all year round! Drill holes in blocks of wood! Make sure you place your block beneath shelter and ideally, in a south-facing position. They will sometimes nest inside bamboo, too.

Chemical treatment

Leaf Cutter Bees do substantial pollination across varied landscapes. It's not advised to spray any pesticides on flowering plants due to the potential harmful effects.

Attracts

Bees in the genus possess long-tongues, meaning they prefer tubular flowers. They favour using Redbuds, maples and rose leaves for their burrows.

Repels

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Knowledge and advice

Search our ever-growing knowledge base to find plants and information. Find out about pests and diseases you should be keeping an eye out for. Watch How to videos or follow step by step guides for tasks in the garden. Free download for your phone or tablet.
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