Leaf-cutting bees are solitary bees that use leaf sections to make nests. They are fascinating pollinators the sections they take from plants to make nests create interesting patterns and cause no serious harm.
Latin name Megachile species
Food Nectar and pollen
What are leaf-cutting bees?
There are seven species of leaf-cutting bees in Britain. They have a wingspan of 8-14mm and are dark brown bees covered in lighter brown or orange hairs.
Leaf-cutting bees are solitary bees, the females of which use leaf pieces to construct cells within their nests. They are active from late spring to late summer. The nest site may be a naturally occurring tunnel, such as a hollow plant stem, or it may make a tunnel for itself in rotten wood or dryish soil. Inside the nest the leaf pieces are manipulated to form a thimble-like structure, which is then provisioned with a mixture of nectar and pollen. When sufficient food has been gathered the female bee lays a single egg on the stored food and then proceeds to cap the cell with circular pieces of leaf. This process is repeated until the nest may contain about 20 larval cells.
Signs you have a leaf-cutting bee
The female bee uses her jaws to cut a section of leaf from the foliage of plants, in gardens often roses, and then flies back to the nest site with the piece of leaf slung between her legs. In some cases many leaves on a plant can have sections taken out of them, however, this does not usually affect the health of the plant.
As well as in dry plant stems and cavities in wood, some species will use ‘bee hotels’ and nests are sometimes found in other places such as dry soil in plant pots and in wall cavities.
The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.