Florida’s Native Flora & Fauna: Eastern Redbud & Leafcutting Bees

Featuring some of Florida’s native flora (plant life) and fauna (animal life) so you can learn to recognize, appreciate, and protect native species.

Eastern Redbud Growing in north and central Florida, the Eastern Redbud’s native range also extends to the eastern half of the United States and northern Mexico. This tree is known for it’s heart-shaped leaves and purple-pink flowers that appear all over the tree in spring, just before the leaves emerge. Its smaller size (20-30’ tall & 15-25’ wide), attractiveness, and versatility make it a popular landscape tree. The tree is highly drought tolerant and will grow in full sun, but benefits from some shade and irrigation in hot, dry conditions. The tree will also tolerate occasionally wet soils. While many people may overlook this tree when planting for wildlife, it does provide benefits to many species. The fruit pods produced in summer provide food for birds, including song birds, quail, and turkeys. Squirrels and white-tailed deer also browse the pods. The early-blooming flowers are visited by several species of bee and butterfly pollinators seeking food when not much else has started blooming. Leaf-cutting bees use cuttings of the leaves as nesting material. (Read more about this in the next article.) Leafcutting Bees In Florida, the leafcutter bee family includes approximately 63 species (plus 5 subspecies) within 7 genera. All are important native pollinators of wildflowers, fruits, vegetables, and other crops. Some are even used as commercial pollinators for crops like alfalfa and blueberries. As their name suggests, these bees cut out distinctly round or oval-shaped holes in leaves. Some favorite plants to obtain leaf cuttings are roses and redbuds. The leaves are needed to construct nests in cavities. The leaf material lines the nest and helps control moisture. Within the nest, leafcutters create multiple cells, each with a single egg and a ball of pollen for the larva to eat. Because they are constructed inside cavities, the cigar-shaped nests (shown right) are rarely seen. Cavities may be located in soil, natural holes in wood (beetle holes), hollow plant stems, holes in concrete/brick walls or other man-made objects. Most leafcutter bees overwinter in these nests as newly formed adults. Then once spring arrives, adults chew their way out of the nest one by one. Because leafcutters are solitary bees (do not live in colonies like honey bees), they do not aggressively defend their nests. They are known to only sting if handled so they are not considered a stinging danger to people. While the leaf holes may be unattractive, you can be positive they will not harm the plant and can be happy to have a leafcutter nesting nearby!

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Posted: February 24, 2022


Category: Conservation, Florida-Friendly Landscaping, Home Landscapes, Horticulture, Natural Resources, SFYL Hot Topic, Wildlife
Tags: Bees, Featured, Landscaping, Native Plants, Special Topics, Wildlife, Wildlife Habitat


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