The Leafcutter Bee

Leafcutter Bee - Megachile sp.
Leafcutter Bee – Megachile sp.

The Leafcutter Bees are an interesting group of native solitary bees found within the Megachilidae Family along with Mason Bees, Resin Bees and Carder Bees.  There are approximately 200 species of Leafcutter Bees (Megachile genus) found in North America and several of these species can be easily found in gardens throughout the eastern United States where they favor the plant families Asteraceae, Campanulaceae and Fabaceae.

 

Leafcutter Bee - Megachile sp.
Leafcutter Bee – Megachile sp.

Leafcutter Bees get their names from an obvious behavior.  These bees line their chosen nest cavities (stems, cracks, wood-boring beetle borings, holes of all kinds) with circular discs that they cut from green leaves or flower petals.  When a cavity has been sufficiently lined, the bee will deposit an egg along with a provision of nectar and pollen, afterward abandoning the nest.

Leafcutter Bee - Megachile sp.
Leafcutter Bee – Megachile sp.

Bees in this family are abdominal pollen collectors, as can be seen in the photo above.  Unlike most bees that hold pollen in brushes on their legs, the Megachilidae hold their pollen on the underside of their abdomens that consist of course, unbranched hairs that curves towards the tail.

Leafcutter Bee - Megachile sp.
Leafcutter Bee – Megachile sp.

A diagnostic behavior of the Leafcutter Bee is their habit of extending their abdomen vertically while they forage.  I have not been able to find an accepted reason that they do this.

Leafcutter Bee - Megachile sp.
Leafcutter Bee – Megachile sp.

This is a group of native insects that anyone can help in their own backyard.  Consider making, purchasing and installing nesting structures for your native pollinating bees.  It’s quite easy to do and will help out a lot in suburban where natural sites for nests are often hard to find.

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