Pollinator of the Month: Leafcutter Bees (Megachile)

This month our feature pollinators are Leafcutter Bees (Megachile)!

Leafcutter bees, belonging to the genus Megachile, are found in various regions across the world. They have a broad distribution and can be found in North America, Europe, Asia, and other parts of the globe. The name "Megachile" is derived from Greek; it refers to the large jaws (mandibles) that female leafcutter bees use to cut leaves for nest-building. Leafcutter bees are solitary bees, which means they do not form large colonies like honeybees. Each female leafcutter bee creates her own nest, typically in pre-existing cavities such as hollow plant stems, holes in wood, or even man-made structures like bee hotels. These bees are not aggressive and are generally docile in nature.

Leafcutter bees play a crucial role as pollinators in various ecosystems. They are known to be generalist pollinators and visit a wide range of flowering plants. While foraging for pollen, female leafcutter bees skillfully cut circular or oval pieces from leaves, which they use to construct cells within their nests. These cells serve as food reservoirs for their developing offspring.

Bees in the Megachilidae family such as mason bees, carder bees, and leafcutter bees have hair on the underside of their abdomen that carries pollen, making their underbelly appear yellow. Leafcutter bees, as a genus, can be identified by their robust body shape and prominent mandibles in females. They have a size range of around 5 to 20 mm in length. The coloration can vary among species, but they typically have a dark-coloured body with pale bands or patches on their abdomen. Males and females may also differ in coloration. There are currently 21 recorded species of Megachile in Alberta.

As always, feel free to add any information that I may have missed about leafcutter bees!



Posted on July 22, 2023 02:45 PM by jdo77 jdo77


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