Currently viewing the category: "Mason Bees and Leafcutter Bees"

Leaf Cutter Bee gathers Pollen
Location: Mount Washington, Los Angeles, CA
We have been spending part of the day in the garden tending to things and taking photos of insects.  We managed to capture a single photo of one of the wary Leaf Cutter Bees that has been gathering pollen from the Rudbeckia that is currently blooming.  We have seen them in the past on Rudbeckia as well as Cosmos, but for some reason, we have no more Cosmos and we haven’t tried planting more seeds in recent years.  The awesome thing about the Leaf Cutter Bees is that they gather pollen on the underside of their abdomens.

Leaf Cutter Bee

We also managed to get a single shot of this equally wary Metallic Green Sweat Bee before it flew off.  Seems when we don’t have the camera handy, there are three or four Metallic Green Sweat Bees buzzing around the Rudbeckia and they let us get very close, but as soon as the camera appears, off they go.

Metallic Green Sweat Bee


leaf cutter tragedy
Location: western Washington
August 15, 2011 8:33 pm
This year I planted hanging buckets of tomatoes and peppers. One of the planter types turned out to be disasterous as they failed one, after the other. The last one, with pepper plants well along, exposed one dead bee and around ten little cigar tips. I recovered the plant, then scooped up the (mostly peat) filling and cases into a ceramic planter. Is there anything I can do to encouage the larva to continue?
Signature: kimmiee

Leafcutter Bee Nest Tragedy

Hi kimmiee,
We are sorry to hear about both the loss of your produce garden and the resulting tragedy of the Leafcutter Bee nest.  You have probably done all that you can do.  We would suggest keeping the peat and the nest in a sheltered location and ensuring that it does not dry out and desiccate the nest.  As long as the individual cells were not damaged, there is a chance the bee larvae might survive.  Even if your well intentioned intervention fails, we are awarding you a Bug Humanitarian Award for your valiant efforts.

Before I accept this award, I’d like to thank all the little bees……
For providing me with beautiful flowers, tasty fruits, a myriad of grains, and hours of enjoyment in my garden.
;-> Kim

We love short and sweet acceptance speeches.

gardening blog update:  August 18, 2011
In our opinion, peppers and tomatoes should not be planted in hanging baskets except for ornamental purposes.  Do not expect the kind of harvest you will get out of tomatoes planted in the ground in a favorable location.

Update:  August 29, 2011
You said (re:Leaf cutter Tragedy)
gardening blog update:  August 18, 2011
“In our opinion, peppers and tomatoes should not be planted in hanging baskets except for ornamental purposes.  Do not expect the kind of harvest you will get out of tomatoes planted in the ground in a favorable location.”
Normally I would agree with you.  Living on the Western side of Northern Washington, it is often tricky, to get tomatoes to ripen.  This year was especially hard because unlike the rest of the country, we were very cool well into the middle of July.  So I’ve been pretty pleased that I am getting ripe tomatoes and, in fact, I’ve gotten two peppers off the plant that tried to suicide with the leaf cutters nest.  I stuffed it into an other (fabric) hanging pot and it has recovered better than I expected.  There are other pepper varieties in that planter, and while they have done fairly well vegitatively, I suspect I won’t get any peppers off them.  But, hope springs eternal, and if we get decent weather through October, there could be some.
The hanging planters have enabled me to place multiple plants in a small corner of the yard which achieves maximum sun exposure.  I’ve been religious about watering them solidly every day.

Kim’s Hanging Tomato Plant

Thanks for the update Kim.  Watering a hanging basket would be an important factor in getting a yield out of plants.  We did not mean to imply that vegetables should not be grown in hanging baskets, just that planting in the ground will most likely give larger plants and a better harvest.  Did you get positive results with the Leafcutter Bee nest relocation?

Update:  August 31, 2011
All I can say regarding the nest is that some of the tubes are still intact.  I sort of assumed that they may not hatch (fledge? emerge?) until next spring, or at all.  The peat was disturbed right after I picked them up by the squirrels in the yard, and a couple of the tubes were ripped open but I’ve now inverted the bowl and propped it to provide both cover and ventilation…  It is in a brick planter, under an evergreen.  So, it’s not being dried out, and it doesn’t get enough direct light to bake… But I haven’t disturbed it since to inspect the tubes.  Maybe this weekend I’ll work up the courage to look and see if I can identify any changes….

Thanks for the update.  Let us know if there is any activity next spring.

Update:  September 9, 2011
I said I would look, so I did.  What I found was… not much.  It appears that most of the wonderful cigar tips were just gone, although I did see an occasional hint of a tube or the lacy leftovers of one of the cut pieces.  I also found the little beads you see in the picture.  Again, not knowing enough about the life cycle, I’m not sure at what I am looking.
I know in some of the the original tubes which were destroyed, there was a definite layering effect visible which I took to be piled up pollen with an egg or larva on top.  I should have attempted a picture of that.  These don’t seem to be the same, is it a pupa?
If so, I would surmise at least some of the original group are already out there pollinating again.

Is this related to the Leafcutter Bees?

Hi Kim,
We are not certain what your new photo depicts, but we will post the photo and try to do some research.  This might not even be related to the Bees.


Bees doing a dance on dead apple tree branch

Cuckoo Leafcutting Bee

Bees doing a dance on dead apple tree branch
Location: Henderson, NV (Near Black Mountain)
July 18, 2011 11:42 pm
We had two little bees (around 1.5-2.0 cm) doing a dance on a dead branch of an Apple tree around sunset today (July 18) One bee would grab hold of the end of the branch with its Mandibles and front legs, fold its wings, and stretch out the back legs straight. When the second bee flew around, the first would arch its back up for a little until the second would land, then fly off.
I looked through this site and – but couldn’t quite classify it, maybe a Mining Bee?
Signature: Dan

Battling Cuckoo Leafcutting Bees

Hi Dan,
First, we must compliment you on an awesome series of photos of what we believe to be some species of Sand Wasp in the tribe Bembicini (see BugGuide) engaging in what appears to be a courting and mating “dance”.  We are going to try to enlist the assistance of Eric Eaton to confirm our identification and perhaps to provide more specificity.

Battling Cuckoo Leafcutting Bees

Eric Eaton provides a correction
These are actually cuckoo leafcutter bees in the genus Coelioxys.  They are both females.  The first image shows one in its “sleeping” posture, gripping the bud with its jaws.  I think the second specimen wanted to displace the first one since good sleeping quarters are in short supply (?).  So, it is a battle, not mating 🙂
Coelioxys are kleptoparasites of leafcutter bees in the genus Megachile.  The female Coelioxys lays her egg in the nest of her host.  The larva that hatches then eats (steals) the pollen and nectar stored by the host bee.

What kind of bug made this?
Location:  Cleveland Ohio
July 12, 2011.  6:00 PM
Hi bugman we live in the Cleveland area in Ohio and we found this cocoon and we do not know what kind of bug is in it. I took it apart and found it had 4 sections to it. This thing is amazing it is made of rolled up leaves.incredible.

Nest of a Leafcutter Bee

Hi Norman,
This is the nest of a Leafcutter Bee in the genus
Megachile.  According to the It’s Nature website: “The female constructs a nests in tree cavities and various gaps, sometimes even on the ground. These nests have a complex structure of many tunnels and compartments for the larvae. Leaf-cutter bees have incredible construction skills – they skillfully choose the best leaf “material” for their nests and glue it with their saliva, resulting in a sturdy being built. The favourite material for these bees is rose leaves and flowers.”   We are post dating your letter to go live on Friday while we are out of the office.

Location: Mount Dora, Florida
April 2, 2011 4:49 pm
It’s April 2, 2011 & Im in Central Florida. I went to reach into my night stand’s drawer for a chocolate & found 3 of these in there. I thought it was strange til I realized that I had put a cylinder in there from my wind chime. And yes, there was a nest in it. Anyway, I thought they were bees until I took a closer look. Am I right to assume that these are wasps?
Signature: Sunny

Leaf-Cutter Bee

Dear Sunny,
You were actually correct before you took a  closer look.  This is a Leaf-Cutter Bee in the family Megachilidae.  According to BugGuide:  “Most are leaf-cutters, nesting in ground, in cavities, wood. Tunnels are bored in wood or in the ground. Cell is provisioned with pollen (and nectar?), an egg laid, and cell is sealed over with circular pieces of leaves that fit tightly into cavity.”  If you see perfectly cut circles cut from the leaves of your rose bushes, that is the work of the Leaf-Cutter Bee.  The slight cosmetic harm they cause to plants is greatly offset by the advantages of them pollinating flowers.  They are native bees, and there are many groups across the nation that are trying to educate the public regarding the benefits of protecting our native pollinators in the shadow of Colony Collapse Disorder.

Thank you so much! Yes, when I continued searching for an ID, I became aware that it had to be a bee. And yes, circular dark things came out of the cylinder. They were thinner than paper. I tried to get the bees to come back to it, but they didnt want to. I placed them on my tomato plant as you can see. I dont mind a little damage. I know the importance of bees. I will share this wonderful information with all my friends on Facebook. I want to thank you for all the wonderful information that you provide the world with & congratulate you on such a wonderful site. If it wasnt for you & your friends, I would never get to see the many neat creatures that God has created & continues to create.  =)
Bee Happy,

Bee identification
Location: Tacoma, WA
December 12, 2010 4:01 pm
I had never seen a bee collect pollen like this before? Can you please help me identify what kind of bee it is?
Signature: T Drivas

Leaf Cutting Bee

Dear T Drivas,
Your bee is a Leaf Cutting Bee in the genus
Megachile.  BugGuide also has images of Leaf Cutting Bees gathering pollen in this manner.  These wild bees are important pollinators.

Leaf Cutting Bee