By Pamela Sleightholm
You’ve likely seen the signs that leafcutter bees (Megachilidae spp.) have been working in your garden. Just as the name suggests, they cut perfect little circles out of leaves to use in their nests.
Leafcutter bee on butterfly weed. Photo by Peeter Poldre, 2021.
These bees are super pollinators – they carry pollen on their abdomens where it can be easily shaken off and spread. So don’t dismay if a few of your leaves have been munched – they won’t destroy the plant and the bees are exchanging some very beneficial services in your garden and for our food supply.
Leaf cutter bees hoard the little discs to create nests in the safety of tunnels and tubes. Inside, mother bees build small “apartments” from the leaf segments for a nesting egg. The egg, which is placed on a ball of pollen and nectar, hatches about a week later and eats the nutritious ball left by its mother before entering a winter-long hibernation period.
If you want to support leafcutter bees plant plenty of native leafy plants and flowers for their food. Also, leave hollow stems, a well-maintained bee hotel or dead branches or logs in your yard to provide nesting sites for the next generation of bees.