Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Native Bee - Leaf Cutter

There are leaf cutter bees in the garden.
First there were the signs...
Circles cut from the edges of the Redbud's leaves.Smooth circular cuts about 3/4-inch in diameter around the edge of heart shaped leaves on a young tree. Click on the photo below to enlarge and look closely at the leaves. Or CLICK HERE

Then there were bees, about the size of a honey bee but darker with light bands on the abdomen.
Hairs on the underside of the abdomen carried pollen rather than on the hind legs like other bees.

more pics

Leaf cutter bees nest in existing small cavities about 5/6 inch in diameter in tree stumps,rocks, the ground, live trees and even old wasp nests or rotted wood and thick-stemmed pithy plants which can be excavated easily . A tunnel is formed wide enough for the bee to fit into and construct several cells containing pollen and nectar collected to provision overwintering young, usually 4 to 8 inches long. This is a type of bee that will nest in blocks of wood drilled with many holes of a correct size provided by gardeners or farmers to keep bees nearby. Blocks can be kept cold and dormant then placed in areas where pollinators are needed.A single bee's territory can extend over several acres.
Leaf cutters are solitary bees in that each queen makes her own nest,but many will gather very near to each other, sort of condo style.

You need not fear leaf cutters. They are not an aggressive bee and you would have to be trying to handle one to get stung.
Any leaf damage done to ornamentals will not harm the plant and looks kind of interesting.

Not adverse to a bit of bad weather leaf cutter bees are early spring pollinators showing up to pollinate wildflowers and early crops alike, unlike honey bees that are lathargic on cool cloudy days.Areas with long cold winters may only have one generation per year but regions with mild winters could have several.

Sightings map and chart


Blogger Lisa at Greenbow said...

Gloria, I have seen these bees in my garden before. I didn't look closely at them. I will do so the next time they are out and about. I have seen the type of damage on my redbuds before. I didn't know they were the culprits.

I am so glad you posted about these leaf eaters. Another mystery solved in my garden. :)

12/12/07 7:48 PM  
Blogger jodi said...

This is a lovely post, Gloria. I think we gardeners need to learn more about more of the interesting insects in our garden, and do posts such as these to help educate others who might have 'bug a phobia", or who just don't know much about them. Do you have good books you recommend?

12/12/07 10:47 PM  
Blogger Gloria said...

Hey lisa, most gardeners that do not use a lot of pesticides have probably had these native bees visit the garden. The trick (for me at least) is to get them to stay. I have been gardening in such a way as to provide habitat for as many of the native pollinators as would care to linger here.

Jodi, honey bees get way to much media play. I wish more would be said of our native bees. I have seen that they are still an active player in pollinating throughout North America though mostly ignored or unknown. There were almost 200 species of native bees sighted and documented in the Chicago area around the turn of the 20th century. A hundred years later most of the same bees can be found only in much smaller numbers.
Gardens can be of some service in this area. A way of bridging the urban landscape to the fragmented wild habitats.
As for books this is a case where local makes a difference.I have found books printed by local universities to be best.
But there are good books that talk of concern and intent. Have you read 'The Forgotten Pollinators'by Stephen L. Buchmann,Gary Paul Nabhan and Paul Mirocha.While mostly about the western U.S. it deals with the subject of pollinator decline in general and was the impetus to many programs.

13/12/07 12:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

HI. I've lost your email address so have resorted to a comment. Just wanted to alert you that Rob and Mia's story is up on the Rant today - stop by and say hi to him! (It's Sunday and there's only 1 comment so far). He's great and thanks again for telling me about them. Susan

16/12/07 3:40 PM  
Blogger tai haku said...

Hey Gloria
I'm trying to start a meme sharing bloggers' top 10 nature moments of 07 and I'm hoping you'll participate - details here:

19/12/07 8:13 PM  
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