What’s making holes in the leaves? Leafcutter bee

If you wonder what is cutting circular holes around the margins of your leaves, then it’s likely to be the solitary leaf-cutter bee.
The longer cuts are used for wrapped around the chamber. The female will then provision the chamber and lay an egg. The circular cuts are used to seal off the chamber. The egg hatches into a grub.
The grub eats the pollen, pupates and later emerges as a bee.
The female leafcutter bees select leaves that are bendable and not too heavy to carry.
Leaf cutter bee damage to leaves

Leaf cutter bee damage to leaves

Bees are vital for pollination. You can buy leafcutter bee houses to attract the bees to your garden. The leaf-cutter bees are solitary and unlike honey bees do not swarm like honey bees so they are little or no danger to humans or pets.

Bees are vital for pollination.

Leaf-cutter bee house

Leaf-cutter bee house

You can buy leafcutter bee houses to attract the bees to your garden.

 Leafcutter bee house. Leaf cutter bees like hollow tubes and bamboo are ideal. They also excavate tunnels in flower pots where light gritty compost is used.  

Leaf-cutter bee chambers

Leaf-cutter bee chambers

Here I’ve cut open a bamboo cane to reveal the leaf-cutter bee nest chambers. Row of leaf-cutter bee chambers lined with cut leaves. The male will be nearest the exit

The female has used the circular cuts to seal off the ends of the chamber, whereas the longer cuts are wrapped around the sides. The adult bee will provision the chamber with pollen and lay an egg. The larva feeds of the pollen.

The female larva are the first to be layed and are deepest in the line. This means that if the nest is predated by a woodpecker, the feamles have a better chance of avoiding being eaten. The male larva is nearst the exit and will be the first to be eaten.

Leaf-cutter bee larva inside chamber, eating the pollen provided by the bee

Leaf-cutter bee larva inside chamber, eating the pollen provided by the bee

Although this larva will probably die, I carefully replaced the bamboo and sealed it with wax to keep the chambers intact and dry.

Leaf-cutterbee damage to a rose

Leaf-cutterbee damage to a rose

Leaf damage on rose by leaf cutter bees

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9 Responses to What’s making holes in the leaves? Leafcutter bee

  1. Anna says:

    Beautiful photos! I have never seen a leaf cutter bee house. So very interesting!

  2. Shauna says:

    Quite stunning photography and a really interesting post. I shall definitely be back to your site to read some more informative articles.

  3. Honesty says:

    Wow, I loved your article on leaf cutter bees. It was really fascinating stuff and I thought the photographs are excellent.

    The males also emerge first so that they can fight for the right to mate with the females when they emerge I believe, this is why the males emerge first in many species such as bees and butterflies.

  4. eloine says:

    Wonderful articles and photography!

  5. Mike says:

    2/7/10 I have just found a clump of leaf cutter ‘pods’(35) in the bottom of a pot, unfortunately I have dismantled the area before knowing what I had. Are the leaf cutter grubs harmful to the root systems of plants, and if I put the pods in soil in another place undisturbed, will they live?

  6. Marcie says:

    I am so glad I finall found this site. I live in Colorado now but was in Idaho state for 10 years. I have never seen this before now. I just noticed the holes in my rose leaves and wanted to get rid of the critter doing this but now I think I’ll be looking for a bee house for them! Thanks for the great info and pictures.

  7. Tony and Ann says:

    Logan City, QUEENSLAND. Our resident leaf-cutter bee cuts its pieces from “potato vine” leaves in our garden and is attempting to build its nest in the rolled-over folds of canvas at the end of our hammock!

  8. Janet Jackson says:

    The first image is almost a copy of the leaf cutter bee’s work in my lilac tree leaves. I have made a conscious effort this summer to plant flowers to attract bees, and then the reward was the bees visiting my lilac which has been here years!! How ingenious and industious they are.

  9. solarbeez says:

    I saw a smallish bee fly by with a piece of green. It flew into a little drain slot on the window frame. So I’m looking up leaf cutter bees. Now from seeing your photos, I’m sure this is a leaf cutting bee. Thanks for posting.

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