LEAFCUTTER BEES (Megachile)
The amazing handiwork of the Leafcutter Bees makes them one of the most fascinating bees in Australia! The Leafcutter Bee snips a neat circle or oval from a leaf. She will use these leaf pieces to weave tiny cradles for her eggs inside her nest burrow.
Our Leafcutter Bees are in genus Megachile and range in size from about 6 to 15 mm. They belong to the family Megachilidae and are found all over Australia.
Erica Siegel of Queensland kindly contributed the following amazing photographs about Leafcutter Bees in action:
Above: Erica Siegel captured this fantastic close up shot of a Leafcutter Bee in the process of snipping a piece from a leaf! Notice this bee's powerful mandible or jaw that the bee uses for cutting the leaf pieces. Leafcutter Bees carry pollen back to their nests by packing it on the array of stiff bristles that you can see here underneath the abdomen.
Above: Another beautiful shot by Erica Siegel of a Leafcutter Bee in action. Leafcutter bees use these leaf pieces to weave cells for their young inside their nest burrows.
Above: the characteristically uniform cuts made in soft leaves by Leafcutter Bees.
"Peter O' captured this furry Leafcutter Bee snipping a leaf piece for her nest:
Above: Leaf cutter bees grasp the leaf pieces with their legs to carry them back to their nests.
Another wonderful Leafcutter photograph contributed by 'Peter O':
Above: notice the Leafcutter's characteristic thick pad of bristles under the abdomen.
They take the pieces of leaf back to their nests which are in burrows in the ground or in a narrow crevice. There they weave the leaf pieces into a cylindrical brood cell for their young.
Above: this neat brood cell was woven by a Leafcutter Bee for her young in her nest in a hollow bamboo tube. She stocked the cell with nectar and pollen, before laying a single egg in the cell and sealing it up.
Above: this Leafcutter Bee is snipping a circular piece from a rose leaf. This excellent photograph was contributed by Shirley Woods.
Whilst rose leaves are one of the Leafcutter's favourites, other soft leaves that they like to use include Buddleja (above) and wisteria.
Above: Thank you to Noah Hunt for this wonderful action photograph of a Leafcutter Bee returning to her nest in a limestone wall with a pink leaf!