Leafcutter bees (also known as leafcutting bees) are scientifically known as Megachile Latreille. They are in one of the largest genera of bees, with more than 1500 species in over 50 subgenera. Other bees in this family include mason bees, resin bees, and carder bees.
They get their nickname from what they do – cut leaves. Female leafcutter bees will line a cavity with leaves to create a brood chamber in which to lay her eggs. The baby leafcutter bees stay in the chamber throughout winter. In the spring, they chew through the chamber to exit the nest.
Female leafcutter bees have teeth. They also have large heads due to the extra muscles they developed that help them chew through leaves.
Leafcutter bees carry pollen in a different area than honey bees. While honey bees carry pollen on their legs, leafcutter bees carry pollen on the underside of their abdomen. This makes them excellent pollinators, as the pollen easily falls off of their bodies and onto plants.
They do not damage leaves. Leafcutter bees will leave a half moon shaped notch in the leaves it uses for their chambers. While the cuts may affect the aesthetics of the plant, the cuts do not damage the plant at all.
Leafcutter bees are not agressive. They rarely sting, and if they do sting, it is much more mild than a honey bee. Leafcutter bees are considered safe to be around families and pets.
They pollinate a wide variety of plants and vegetables. Leafcutter bees will pollinate most flowering garden vegetables and flowers including alfalfa, carrot, blueberries, cranberries, legume, melons, onions, and peas. Leafcutter bees are such good pollinators that they are often used by farmers for commercial pollination.
Female leafcutter bees live for around 2 months. During that time they will lay 35-40 eggs.
They can also determine the sex of their offspring by withholding sperm from male eggs. She will lay female eggs first, at the back of the chamber, and the male eggs closer to the entrance. This is because males develop faster and exit the nest first.
You can get leafcutter bees in the mail. You can order leafcutter bee cocoons online and they will be shipped straight to your door. When the daytime weather is consistently 75 F, you can place the cocoons outside and the leafcutter bees will emerge.