Saturday, July 7, 2012

"I Went to Disneyland!"

...said the leaf-cutter bee.

And from the looks of things, he had a very good time.

Evidence of leaf-cutter bees on my Rosa 'Disneyland'

Rosa 'Disneyland'
Leaf-cutter bees (Megachile rotundata), a.k.a. alfalfa bees, like to use rose leaves to line their nests. They don't manufacture honey or form colonies like honeybees, instead preferring to raise their young in solitary nests. 

They rarely cause more than cosmetic damage to rose bushes or their other favorites - green ash and lilacs. I also noticed they like the leaves of our green bean plants. Sometimes they'll bore into the soft wood of cut rose canes, so to prevent them setting up housekeeping there, you can put white glue on the ends of the canes after pruning.

Leaf-cutter bee
Photo by Jodelet/L├ępinay - Wikimedia Commons

The adult lives about two months, and is most active during the time alfalfa is in bloom. They never become a problem and because of their value as pollinators - they're much more productive than honeybees - insecticides are not recommended, nor are they particularly effective. The females can sting, but they rarely do so. Both males and females bite as a method of defense, but won't, unless squeezed or otherwise provoked. They do have natural enemies - parasitic bees and wasps, velvet ants, and certain blister beetles.

Here's a video that I found on YouTube of a leaf-cutter bee in action:

Have you noticed the leaf-cutter bees on anything in your gardens? If so, what are they choosing to take back to their nests?


Lisa at Greenbow said...

Facinating creatures. I don't think I have ever seen one.

Indie said...

It even looks like he is cutting Mickey Mouse ears into your rose leaves! I'm pretty sure we have some of these, though I haven't seen them in action.

Janice said...

This is one of the few insects I don't think I've seen in my garden. I had something coming out at night and eating up the leaves to my Trumpet plant until I planted Elephant Garlic around the base. I have this wonderful pest deterrent planted in most of my flower beds. It has even kept the aphids from my one rose bush. I've never had any luck with roses except this one I rescued from our old home place.

Jennie said...

I hadn't seen many of these until we moved to a new town this summer. Now they're everywhere! I don't have much planted yet, but the existing lilac bushes look like swiss cheese. I'm glad to have them, though, so that somebody pollinates my tomatoes and squashes.

Swimray said...

They also like my Chinese Redbud tree leaves, in late summer to early fall.

Garden Lily said...

The patterns are quite pretty, if you don't think of it as damage.

Kylee Baumle said...

Lisa ~ Have you seen evidence of them in your garden though?

Indie ~ Ha! I never thought of that!

Janice ~ Interesting about the Elephant Garlic! What kind of rose is the one you've had such good luck with?

Jennie ~ Yes, sometimes the squashes need help. One year, I had gorgeous blooms on my zucchini, and not one zucchini! Can you believe it? I had to BUY zucchini to make bread with it!

Swimray ~ I found another plant they like - Arisaema dracontium. I have yet to catch one in the act this summer though.

Garden Lily ~ I agree! I don't mind it.

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