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Megachilidae, or more commonly referred to as leafcutter bees are native bees to Southern Utah. They are important as pollinators and are not aggressive with a mild sting that is used only when they are handled. They cut the leaves of plants and use the fragments to form nest cells. Leafcutter bees nest in soft, rotted wood or in the stems of large, pithy plants, such as roses.
The leafcutter bee looks like a Honey Bee but the underside of its abdomen is orange. It is best recognised by its habit of carrying pieces of leaf back to its nest; semi-circular holes in the leaves of garden plants also denote its presence.
Basic Leafcutter Bee Hive Info
Drill a variety of holes up to 12mm in diameter into the side of a thick piece of untreated timber, and fix to a sunny wall or fence. This should be kept in a dry, cool place in winter and brought out in March. If left outside to endure winter rains these small posts can soon get too damp. Smooth down the entrances to the holes thoroughly so there are no sharp splinters, as these will put the bees off. New fence posts from garden centres are unsuitable because they have been treated with chemicals, but lengths of very old fence posts or old roof joists, such as you often find on skips, are ideal.
Don’s Leafcutter Bee Hives
Don’s cutter bee hives are 4 x 4 chunks of wood. Holes have been drilled into them and then a plastic straw was pushed into the hole and cut off close to the wood. A bee will go into a straw, create a nest cell, lay an egg, provide nectar and pollen and then seal the cell. A series of closely packed cells are produced in sequence. A completed nest tunnel may contain a dozen or more cells, forming a tube 4 to 8 inches long. The young bees develop and remain within the cells emerging the next season.
The first of June the leafcutter bees were coming out of their hives. Many of the straws were empty at that time but the bees were also darting in and out. They were apparently preparing the hives for new eggs. They cut pieces of leaves from plants that they take back to the hive and use them to fashion a nest cell within the straw. They then provision each leaf-lined cell with a mixture of nectar and pollen. The female lays the egg and then seals up the cell. The photos below show some pictures of the hive in June when the hives are emptying and then again in July when they have been filled back up.
Elisha’s Leafcutter Bee Hives
Elisha has two types of leafcutter bee hives.
4 x 4 block of wood: This has holes drilled into both ends. Styrofoam is then attached on three sides, overlapping the end of the block to protect the hives. Straws are then inserted into the holes for the bees to use as their egg cells.
Styrofoam Hive: This leafcutter bee hive is built from 1” thick styrofoam, two layers. The outer layer extends over the inner layer on three sides by 1 1/2 inches. The center (approximately 3” by 7”) is densely packed with straws.