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SCIENTIFIC NAME: Megachile rotundata



Leafcutter bees are most active in midsummer when the temperture rises above 70 degrees. These bees are hardworking pollinators; 150 leafcutters can do the work of 3000 honeybees! Most common Leafcutter Bees are approximately the size of the common honeybee, although they are somewhat darker with light bands on the abdomen. They also have different habits. Leafcutter bees are not aggressive and sting only when handled. Their sting is very mild, much less painful than that of honeybees or yellowjacket wasps.

Soon after mating the male bee dies, the female living for approximately 2 months and lay some 35 to 40 eggs during this time. Individual female leafcutter bees do all the work of rearing. This includes digging out nesting areas (although, most megachilids use pre-existing holes and do not dig their own burrows), creating nest cells and providing their young with food.

The female lays an egg and seals the cell, producing a finished nest cell that somewhat resembles a cigar butt. A series of closely packed cells are produced in sequence. A finished nest tunnel may contain 12-15 cells, each cell lined with approximately 15 pieces of leaf with a loaf of "bee bread," a mixture of pollen and nectar placed in each cell, on which the egg is laid. She will make one cell per day on average. Like all solitary bees, the female leaves the nest after it is closed. The larva will hatch after a few weeks and feed on the bee bread left for them. They will then turn into a pupa and depending on the species, & if eggs were laid early enough in Spring they will hatch a few weeks later.



There are more than 140 species of Leafcutter Bees found in North America .


Leafcutter bees are solitary bees, meaning that they don't produce

colonies as do social insects (honeybees, yellowjackets, ants, etc.).



The Leafcutter Bee can also be referred to as a tube-nester or wood dweller. She uses leaf pieces to create cells and line her nest in a hollow twig, or any other opening about the diameter of a pencil, such as tunnels in the ground, under stones, in the pith of brambles or excavated in wood . Other favorite sites for nesting include tubes of lawn furniture or boring into urethane foam roofing material. The cells are positioned end to end in a long burrow. Several circular leaf pieces form the bottom, then oblong pieces are placed along the sides to form a "thimble." This thimble is then provisioned with nectar and pollen, and an egg is laid in it. Then the bee cuts more circular pieces to close the cell. Once the cell is closed, the bee starts another cell above the first, until the whole cavity is filled.



After the nest is made, the bees collect fragments of leaves to construct

individual nest cells. The bees cut leaves in a distinctive manner, making a

smooth semicircular cut about 3/4 inch in diameter from the edge of leaves. Although they cut many types of leaves, leafcutter bees prefer certain types,

notably rose, green ash, lilac and Virginia creeper.



There are a great many parasites that act as important natural enemies of

leafcutter bees. As a result, leaf cutting activity may vary widely from year to

year. Parasitic bees and wasps, velvet ants and certain blister beetles are among

the most important enemies of leafcutter bees and other solitary bees.







4" x 4" x 6" block of untreated wood


  1.   Drill holes in the block, spaced 3/4" apart.

      For leafcutter bees, the holes should be 1/4" wide and 2 1/2 -4" deep.

      For mason bees, drill 5 - 5 1/2" deep, 5/16" wide holes. Do not drill completely through the block.

   2.    Place block on the side of a house or shed, beneath the eave, or mount it securely on a fence post or pole at the edge of the yard. Attach an overhanging roof piece to the block if placed away from an overhang or building eave.

   3.   Block should be erected in early spring and placed at least three feet above the ground.

      Position block to face southeast, allowing it to get morning sun.

Sites with Plans :

Maryland Department of Natural Resources: How to Build a Bee house

Bee Nesting Box Project: Artificial Habitats for Tube Nesting Bees

Solitary Bee Box

University of Maine Cooperative Extension - Wild Blueberry

•  Construction, Placement and Maintenance of Wooden Bee Nesting Blocks


Sites with tips for building Solitary Bee Nesting Boxes :

Solitary Bees: Homes for Bees

Scott's Bee and Wasp House Page

United States Department of Agriculture: Nest Block Preparation

Pollination - The Bees Second Shift

Lesson 2.6 Solitary and Social Bees



Maryland Department of Natural Resources: Native Pollinators

Home & Garden: Leafcutter Bees, by W.S. Cranshaw

Bug of the Month: August 1996: The Leaf-Cutter Bee

Pollination - The Bees Second Shift

University of Maine Cooperative Extension - Wild Blueberry

•  Field Conservation Management of Native Leafcutting and Mason Osmia Bees


Wings In Flight: Attracting Solitary Bees

University of California Delivers: An Alternative to Honey Bees for Pollination