Posted by: buzzybeegirl | May 11, 2009

Bees in a Blanket

The bees are out and boy are they busy…and buzzy (had to throw that in). The bee condo that I had put up at my house is being utilized by many many bees. It’s not a cloud of bees, like in the movies. It’s more like 1-2 bees fly in at the same time or out, but if you stay and watch, more fly in and out. 10 of the holes are already filled with baby bees and plugged at the entrance. The bees that are using the condo are leafcutter bees or mason bees as some call them (in the family Megachilidae).  These are the bees that use pieces of leaves to line their nests and and wrap their babies with. The female bees find leaves that they like (they really like leaves from the rose family), but at my house they use the leaves from out citrus tree. The fly onto a leave and within a matter of seconds, they cut out a circular piece of leaf using their mandibles (bee teeth), leaving behind a leaf that looks like this…

leaf

Some of you may notice these circular patterns on some of your leaves. It means you have leafcutters nearby. Here is a photo of a bee holding a piece of leaf.

bee holding a piece of leaf under it's body

bee holding a piece of leaf under it's body

The bees take the piece of leaf back to their nest and they line the walls with several pieces, make a pollen ball, lay an egg, then cover the entrance of that one cell with more leaves. Here is what the inside of the nest would look like…

beenest

Goodbear found this leafcutter nest inside one of her outside rugs. You can see how the bee used many many pieces of leaves to wrap her babies in.

photo by Goodbear (Digital Muzzle)

photo by Goodbear (Digital Muzzle)

So, if you see those weird ring patterns on your leaves, feel lucky that you have leafcutter bees nearby. They use the leaves of plants, but they are also pollinating those plants and many more in your yard.

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Responses

  1. Very cool stuff. I love learning new things about bees. I have some carpenter bees living in a stump on my patio and I never knew there were so many kinds of bees until I got a few of my own.

  2. Yeah, that is cool. And lucky goodbear to have a great demonstration carpet on hand!

  3. [...] her bird feeder. With Nifty video!  Anna’s Bee World covers leafcutting bees with lovely [...]

  4. of all the megachile, leafcutters are my favorite! They are so fun to watch.

    • Thanks for visiting Andrew. Megachile are quite fascinating…and so much fun to watch.

    • Thanks for visiting the site Andrew. Megachile are quite fascinating…and so much fun to watch!

  5. i have been watching bees taking rolled up leaves into my old tomato plant for ages, and while i was out re-potting them yesterday i found about 20 of these rolled up leaves (they look like cigars), i have stored them safely away from the childrens reach but dont no what to do with them as i dont feel safe leavin them in my garden, any advice would be much apprieciated Helen.

  6. I love your site. So very well done. Thank you for going to all the effort. I wonder if you have noticed any differences in the types of Mason Bees? I am going to get some for my garden in San Francisco and don’t know if I should worry with the type of Osmia? Jeff

    • Hi Jeff, thanks for visiting my blog :-) There are specific species of Osmia that are better adapted to cooler climates. For the most part Osmia lignaria is found all around the western coast. Is this the species you were looking on purchasing?


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