Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Leafcutter bees

Leafcutter bees are midsummer bees.  They are solitary bees and nest in holes in walls, wood, etc.  This male Megachile willughbiella was hanging around in my bee house six weeks ago, waiting for the females to emerge.  His hairy front legs remind me of a shire horse.

Despite looking carefully in Stephen Falk's book I find female leafcutter bees difficult to identify.  This one might be Megachile versicolor as it has a two-tone scopa (pollen brush) under its abdomen.

This one could be Megachile centuncularis and has a good load of bright yellow pollen.  The photo shows its powerful mandibles used for cutting leaves.

I am not at all sure about this one.  It was difficult to photograph as it was head down in the flowers all the time.

This one is collecting blue-grey pollen from rosebay willowherb.

There have been female leafcutters in the garden but I haven't found where they chose to nest - it wasn't in my bee house.  Two photos I am very keen to take are of a bee cutting a leaf and one returning to the nest with a leaf.  I have found evidence of them cutting the raspberry leaves but never caught them at it.

To see Ed Phillips' astonishing photo of a leafcutter carrying a piece of leaf click here.


  1. I love the way you compare their front legs to shire horses :) Fab photos

  2. Hi, I hadn't noticed the shire horse look until you pointed it out! I love your 1st photo particularly.
    I think photo 3 is most likely a M. willughbiella female, assuming it was also taken in your garden, as they have the tail scopal hairs dark. The photos of females with pollen make it impossible to id (for me).
    Photo 7, of the bee in small, paler geranium flower is a very worn, bare, faded female Osmia bicornis (rufa); they just try to fool you!

    1. Thanks for your help Louise. I had a feeling the Osmia was a different shape to the others and it was a bit smaller. I suppose we all get worn, bare and faded as we get old. I'll try to get the photo of a leafcutter cutting next year.

  3. Nice shots and nice view of the inside of a nest chamber. Cheers George