Leaf cutter bees (Megachile centuncularis) are one of our most interesting solitary bees and a very useful pollinator to gardeners and farmers. They look similar to and are about the same size as a honey bee.
Most of us will have noticed circular holes in many of our rose leaves during the summer months, these holes are made by the female bees cutting and taking the leaf to her nest hole to use for laying her eggs in. The nest holes are chosen in plant stems, dead wood, old walls and bee hotels bought at garden centres. One female will make up to 20 individual nests !
They build their egg cells with pieces of leaves placed in each nest hole and then they deposit a single egg with a little pollen, nectar, and saliva for further development of the larvae.
Leaf cutter bees are important pollinators of crops such as alfalfa clove, some fruits onions, carrots and many wild flowers.
They are on the wing April until the end of August.
TOP TIP – It is possible to encourage them into your garden by providing bundles of hollow canes, or a log of wood drilled with holes around 1cm in diameter (don’t use varnish, preservatives or any other chemicals). If the holes in the canes of the log are too small, then your ‘bug house’ is more likely to be occupied by ladybugs or some other insects.
Attracting leafcutter bees to the garden is very rewarding. They are fascinating to watch, and in a way, amusing: to see a little bee carrying a piece of leaf as large as itself, or even larger, is wonderful to see!