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Easy Identification for Leafcutter Bees

In a garden with a variety of flowers, pollinators will be abundant.  Sometimes we don’t always recognize the specific pollinator when we see it, but there are some native pollinators that leave other signs of their activity. One of our medium-sized native bees will leave a distinctive calling card of recent activity in our landscape.

Leafcutter bees have collected circular notches from the edges of a redbud tree. Photo by Beth Bolles, UF IFAS Extension Escambia County.

If you see some of the leaves of trees and shrubs with distinct circular notches on the edges of the leaves, you can be sure the Leafcutter bee is present.  The females collect the leaf pieces to make a small, cigar-shaped nest that may be found in natural cavities, such as rotting wood, soil, or in plant stems.  Each nest will have several sections in which the female places a ball of pollen and an egg.  The emerging larvae then have a plentiful food source in order to develop into an adult bee.

When identifying a leafcutter bee in your landscape, look for a more robust bee with dark and light stripes on the abdomen.  These bees also have a hairy underside to their abdomen where they carry the pollen.  When loaded with pollen their underside will look yellow.

 

Leafcutting bees visiting a bloom.

Leafcutter bees are solitary bees that are not considered aggressive.  A sting would only be likely if the bee is handled.  Your landscape will have many plants that a leafcutter may use for nesting material.  The pollinating benefits of these bees far outweigh any cosmetic injury to the plant leaf margins.

Visit Featured Creatures to see a photo of the leaf pieces made into a nest.