Leafcutter bees-harmless, useful and often neglected pollinator

August 7, 2011

in A selection of my garden wildlife videos, Gardening For Wildlife, Red mason & solitary bees, Solitary Bee Observation Box

Leaf cutter bees, rarely seen by many people but ever so useful!

Probably patchwork leafcutter bee damage to rose leaf

 

I designed my award winning solitary bee nest box for numerous reasons. I found the other commercial ones turned out to be’ death traps’ for the leaf cutters and red mason bees and I and my children had difficulty viewing what was going on.  Now everybody can view what is going on inside the cavities and even the cells with red mason bees! See 3 different species including leaf cutters in the video with interesting facts below. You may be interested in a new updated article….Beware! Is your ‘bee hotel’ a nursery for disease and pests?

 

Pollinators of our food under threat

We have all heard of honey bees, living in large numbers in their hives, bumblebees living in much smaller numbered colonies but many people have not heard of or are aware of another group of important pollinators of our food, particularly fruit and flowers. That group is the harmless solitary bees, which themselves comprise of 3 main groups of which there are around 250 species: miners, leaf cutters and mason bees. Like bumblebees, these important pollinators are under threat from their habitats being destroyed, pesticides and lack of forage. We were becoming increasingly dependent upon one species of pollinator, the honey bee, possibly because we also gained honey and other hive products from it as well as some crops from its pollination services. The difficulties that honey bees are currently going through should start to raise alarms. We simply  cannot rely upon one species alone to pollinate our food. We should start to help the other, less well known wild species in our quest for pollination and hence food supply and food security.

Where will they nest?

 

Leaf cutter bee larva in cell Nurturing Nature

This photograph was taken from one of my solitary bee nest boxes and is a larva inside its leaf cell. Next door to it in the next cell was a leafcutter assassin with video

 

 A large diversity of leaf-cutters (Megachile) are strictly ground-nesters, as are a good number of Osmia bees.  For both, the nests are typically short, shallow, and sometimes branched. (pers. comm. JH).  Miner bees can construct their own cavities in sandy/loamy soil. Usually, leaf cutters like mason bees, like to nest in a ready made cavity. This could be hollow stems, holes in walls, fence post holes and other similar cavities, providing the width was to their liking. Leaf cutter bees will also nest inside containers, such a hanging baskets and plant pots, esp. M. willughbiella. I suspect that the compost is something they can easily manage as they force their way through to make cavities. The leaf cells will contain a mixture of nectar and pollen and are very fluid as you can see above. They have to be waterproof or the liquid food would simply ooze out of the cell.

We can help them by providing cavities to nest in and there are many solitary bees nest boxes available to buy at garden centres. Personally I like watching these fascinating bees and have bought nest boxes, one almost 20 years old, that allows you to observe them up close, without too much disturbance to the bees. However, at the time they were probably the best available for bee observation. They do have major drawbacks.

 

Solitary bee nest tubes with mould Nurturing Nature

 

Moisture cannot wick away causing fungal infection of the pollen and the bee larva dies. Raw states ” Glass tubes have been found undesirable, because condensation on the inside of the tube killed the occupants”

Drawbacks

Being completely circular and acrylic any moisture that enters on the bee or pollen wicks into the surrounding material. i.e. pollen. This always carries a risk of fungal infection of the larval food, and thus its death, especially with red mason bees. The acrylic tube restricts the air flow and retains moisture. I have lost many red mason bees because of this. Yes they are fine for observations and have been used for years. But later in the year I did find that many bees were killed by the dampness and mould that grew in the tubes as you can clearly see above. I want to observe bees and their parasites. I want to increase bees numbers, not kill them! I would not use them now. The smaller the tube the greater the infection risk and I found the same thing happened to solitary predatory wasps.  The tubes area real pain to clean for adults and children. They made management of the bees difficult. Hence my design of nest box which I now sell! They have been a tremendous success and more importantly a success for solitary bees!

 

Nurturing Nature solitary bee nest box

 

Easily observe what is going on inside the cavities

The two most common species of leaf cutter bees in the UK probably are, Megachile centuncularis (Patchwork leaf cutter) and M. willughbiella. Besides leaf cutter bees, mason bees and some small predatory solitary wasps  (with the optional extra nesting blocks) have all used the nest boxes.  The predatory wasps store living but paralised sawflies, aphids and caterpillars inside the cavities, then lay an egg with a hearty feast awaiting the young wasp grub! The different species of solitary bees and small predatory wasps, simply do not bother with each other, all intent on supplying for their own offspring and concentrate on completing their tasks within their cavity, each of which is in effect, the nest. So you are able to watch a wasp pile the caterpillars etc., in one cavity for its young with a mason bee or leaf cutter bee in the nest box! Each separate cavity is in fact a separate nest site for the particular bee os wasp species. If all the cavities are occupied, the females will go off in search of another nesting site.

 

Mason and leaf cutter bees can easily be observed in the transparent tubes but may die later in the year

 

The white polystyrene at the ends of the tubes are to stop spiders, earwigs and other undesirable entering. If a bee finds a spider inside a vacant tube, she obviously will not use that tube nor will she tolerate an earwig being present inside. Spiders will occupy cavities as a shelter, probably before deciding to make a web from the cavity. Earwigs will shelter inside them and eat the pollen and stores of food intended for the bees.

 

Wooden nesting box for solitary bees- note bottom left cell has been sealed with mud

 

Another type of commercially available solitary bee nesting box. This one has at least one cell fully occupied and sealed by mud, a trade mark of a mason bee. Leaf cutters in my garden, do not use this type box at all, only the mason bees. Why is this? My research has found that without proper management, (details come with my instructions) these type of nest boxes, can also be a death trap for bees, over time when disease can spread from the cavity or mites take over each cavity leading to the death of the bee larvae. Drilled wooden blocks, a simple to make DIY attempt, is now old technology and again allows for the increase of pests and diseases inside beach hole. Management of these is impossible. Bamboo tubes are cheap and cheerful, but make management difficult. Management of bees can greatly enhance the bee population.

Their life begins.

After emerging from her cocoon in which she overwintered, possibly late May or June in my garden, the female leaf cutters bees feed themselves up with nectar for energy and pollen in readiness for egg laying, find a mate and then go in search of a suitably sized cavity. Cavity depth, diameter and material will influence her choice. After selecting a cavity, she will, like bumblebees, undertake a zig-zag orientation flight in which she in effect, takes mental pictures of the entrance hole and its location memorising its exact location. Once found, if it was previously used by another bee, she will clean out the debris before the cell construction process begins.

Leaf cutter bee lines the cavity with leaves Nurturing Nature

 

Nest building

See my video of them nest building.

The whole process of nest making can take some time. They only live a few weeks so time is of the essence. Inclement weather stops them. They have only one brood a year and never see their offspring.  Time is very important to them. After mating and feeding up, she has to find a suitable cavity. Leaf cutter bees select a suitably soft rose leaf, lilac, beech or willow herb leaf, starting from the outer edge and using their jaws, (mandibles) cut a semi circular shape around the outer edge. As the leaf is about to drop she resumes flying and carries the leaf underneath her  body, using her front legs and jaws, to make it as aerodynamic as possible to give the least resistance and drag against the airflow. Ospreys carries a fish it has just caught, with the narrowest edges facing the way it is flying. She uses these pieces to line the outer walls of the cavity, making a hollow cigar shape. She uses different disc shaped pieces of leaf to cap an individual cell within the cigar shaped tube.

Provisioning

Then she stocks the cell with pollen and nectar using much more nectar than the red mason bee, tamps down the food with her abdomen, lays an egg on top of the food mound, then closes that cell using the disc shaped pieces of leaf sealing it with a leaf/saliva mixture and starts again with the next cell. As each particular cell can take nearly 10 hours to build and provision, with an average 21 trips to contruct the cell and 18 trips to provision the cell with pollen/nectar, the process can take a few weeks, particularly if the weather is bad. In essence, her life is based around a complex sequence of stereotyped behaviour: nest searching ➞ nest inspection ➞ leaf gathering ➞ pollen/nectar gathering ➞ egg laying ➞ leaf gathering ➞ leaf sealing and so on until that particular cavity is filled. She may lay 30-50 eggs if she is lucky, depending upon her finding enough cavities to fill.

 

Leaf cutter bee cutting a leaf, used as nest lining material

 

I would imagine that carrying the leaf must be rather tiring for the female leaf cutter as the leaf can weigh a 1/4 of her weight! Recently at Speke Hall in Speke, Liverpool, I saw this female having a breather, rather appropriately on a wooden table with two benches, one of those that we use to have a rest ourselves ! There was another leaf cutter actually inspecting old nail holes in the very same bench!

 

Female cutter bee with her nest lining material, having a rest at Speke Hall, Liverpool!

 

I have often seen them inside their cells on cold, wet or windy days, sitting there, with their heads just near the cell entrance, awaiting better weather. As it is the actual provision of food for the cells takes most of the time, it would help if we could provide suitable flowers nearby, (as unlike honey or bumble bees, solitary bees do not forage over great distances), for them to forage on. (List in my instructions!)  Whilst awaiting better weather, I have seen them, particularly during the inclement daytime weather and early evenings, prepared to defend their eggs, waiting near the entrance with their jaws open ready to repel predators. Unfortunately, when they are out foraging for food and provisions the cells are left undefended. This leaves ample time for a host of predators and parasites to enter the cells and lay their own eggs…..  a topic in its own right!

 

Leaf cutter bee cells with an opportunistic mason bee in the last cell

 

Above you can see 3-4 leaf cutter “cigars”! each containing provisions, lined with cut leaves and sealed with a leaf pulp. However, this female may have died as she never constructed the very last feel. This was made by an opportunistic mason bee, which you can see is totally different. She has sealed the right od her cell with mud, provisioned it with pollen upon which she has laid her egg and sealed the entrance to the whole tube with mud. Would the leaf cutter bees be able to cut their way out through the mud wall with their leaf cutting mandibles ?

Yes you can view what is going on, BUT there is no oxygen exchange and no escape for moisture. I have found scores of dead bees over they years inside the tubes over the autumn and winter months. They are a devil to clean and remove viable cocoons. I needed a much easier option and one which did not kill the bees.

 

Leaf cutter bee cell ( cigar!) with a young bee inside shortly to emerge

leaf cutter bee cell to the right and mason bee cocoon on left

Both of the above cells were lucky. They were overwintered, away from predators. Unfortunately the one below was taken by a bird, possibly a woodpecker that visits the garden looking at the damage to the front wooden cover. This certainly is a case of last in, first out!

 

Bee larvae predated by a bird whilst still in the cavity

 

A few little soil mounds in your lawn may well be a female mining bee or even a solitary wasp excavating a tunnel for her young. A few little chunks out of your prized roses, will likely be the leaf cutter bee, the bee hovering around a few holes in your wall could well be the mason bees. So next time you are enjoying your chilled glass of cider, or crunching into a juice apple, highly likely that the apples used were pollinated by one species of bee or another. Cheers!

See my new Registered Design award winning solitary bee box and bumblebee nest box both of which are radical, practical and educational, offering them a safer nesting environment in which you can observe the bees.

For more information about solitary bees and wasps visit BWARS

For more bumblebee information and to help save bumblebees join the Bumblebee Conservation Trust at Stirling University

For a MS word doc info sheet about the three most commonly seen in gardens leaf cutters bees from the Natural History Museum, download here

Refs: Besides my own experiences and observations…..

Anon, (2009), ” Solitary Bees”, International Bee Research Association”, Cardiff

Mader, E et al (2010)” Managing alternative pollinators”, Natural Resource, Agriculture and Engineering Service, New York

O’Toole, C, (2000), “The red mason bee, taking the sting out of bee keeping”, Osmia publication, Banbury

Pers. comm JH James H. Cane , USDA-ARS Pollinating Insect Research Unit Utah State University, Logan.

Raw, A (1998) “Nesting biology of the leaf-cutter bee Megachile centuncularis (L.) (Hymenoptera: Megachilidae) in Britain”.
ENTOMOLOGIST. Vol. 107, no. 1, pp. 52-56. 1988.

Raw, A (1972) “The biology of the solitary bee Osmia rufa”, Trans. R. ent. Soc. Lond. 124 (3), pp. 213-229, I fig.  1972

 

Thanks for photo of damaged rose from Neil Bromhall an interesting web site….  www.rightplants4me.co.uk

 

 

{ 111 comments… read them below or add one }

marian morrison August 16, 2011 at 10:17 am

Hi George. Read all the above with considerable interest and whilst writing this our leaf cutters are still very busy in the box, amazing!! Please keep me informed regarding the bumble bees. Kind regards Marian.

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nurturingnature August 18, 2011 at 8:06 pm

Hi Marian, I will keep u posted re bumblebees and when i get some time have quite a lot to write re solitary bees! Wish mine were still active ! Cheers George

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Mary April 29, 2014 at 9:50 am

Hello, I noticed a swarm of small bees going in and out of a disused bird box…any idea what these are and are they harmless? Should we leave them alone?

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nurturingnature April 29, 2014 at 4:36 pm

Hi Mary, I suspect, that it may be B. hypnorum or tree bumblebees and it may therefore be males performing their drone dance. Please go to….

http://nurturing-nature.co.uk/wildlife-garden-videos/tree-bumblebee-b-hypnorum-and-the-dancing-drones-video/ and read the comments. Cheers George

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Richard June 19, 2014 at 11:05 am

Hello, whilst in the garden yesterday I heard a very distinct clicking noise near the birdfeeders, and on closer inspection saw it was some kind of wasp or bee? Cutting a semi circle from a leaf, the thing is it was more wasp-like in colour than in your pictures, could it be other than a leaf cutter bee? Thanks for any reply

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nurturingnature June 19, 2014 at 6:50 pm

Hi Richard there is more than one leaf cutter bee. Go to Bwars site and type In megachile to see them. Cheers George

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Jo June 21, 2014 at 12:58 pm

Hi
My daughter and I have just spent a fascinating hour watching a leaf cutter bee making nests in the small round screw sink holes underneath our garden bench! After she had left to cut another leaf we quickly overturned the bench to find two cells already plugged. M daughter filmed it so she can take it to show her class as they are currently learning all about bees. Lovely to see.

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nurturingnature June 21, 2014 at 3:07 pm

What a great little story for a potentially budding wildlife film maker! Thanks for sharing that! Cheers George

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Jo June 21, 2014 at 1:05 pm

We also have what I believe to be a bumble bee nest in a cool corner of our garden which contains our wood store, and is covered with tall trees. I can’t see exactly where they have nested but we have seen, and heard the slow quiet drone, of bees busily coming and going for days to the one spot. We feel proud that they have chosen our garden in which to make their home. My daughter used to be frightened of them but now loves watching them go about their business, oblivious to us.

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nurturingnature June 21, 2014 at 3:09 pm

Another happy story, for several reasons. You feel proud to have been selected by a queen to nest in YOUR garden, your positive attitude to bees and great to hear your daughter now loves watching them. I had 3 daughters myself and they did likewise!! Thanks, George

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Sonia June 21, 2014 at 4:07 pm

I have just noticed what I believe to be a leaf cutter bee flying in and out of a cavity within one of my pots of lavender. At first I was puzzled and then I decided to have a look online and found this article. Nature is fascinating!!!!

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nurturingnature June 21, 2014 at 10:41 pm

It is Sonia, its why I find the time to keep writing my articles.The more I learn, the more I share :-) Cheers, George

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Kate June 23, 2014 at 8:34 am

Hi, have just found your site whilst looking for information on leaf cutter bees. We have just discovered several making nests in plant pots in my mother’s small greenhouse. As it is a confined area would it be safe to remove the plant pots from the greenhouse or would this agitate the bees enough for them to sting. She doesn’t feel very comfortable leaving them in there and would like them to be removed. Any ideas or information greatly appreciated, thanks.

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nurturingnature June 23, 2014 at 9:00 am

Tell your mum she is very lucky to have leaf cutters in her green house. They will be out in her garden pollinating all kinds of fruit, vegetables and flowers enriching her life and her neighbours. These harmless bees do not make honey like honey bees who will use their sting to defend their food. Leaf cutters bees do not do this.I have taught many 100’s children over the years about leaf cutter bees and have turn a misconceive fear of them ( usually due to parents fears!) into admiration of them., Cigar bees as they are known to the kids! I would leave them exactly where they are and enjoy them whilst she can, they will be dead soon leaving next years generation in their leaf cigars! Please get back to me and I will advice further.

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Sue June 24, 2014 at 6:33 pm

Hi There, I have a generous allotment and I try to be as wildlife friendly as possible. Last year I treated myself to one the wooden solitary bee boxes (the same as in your picture) and have been checking it regularly for any action. Today I checked and notice what looked like fine sawdust debris, on closer inspection two of the top holes appeared to be occupied, I looked again later in the day and noticed that one of the holes had just been lined with a leaf, does that mean it is a leafcutter? As I noticed in your right up they did not appear to nest in yours.

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nurturingnature June 24, 2014 at 8:53 pm

Hi Sue, Yes it appears you may have leaf cutters and yes they do use my nest boxes!! see then here….
http://nurturing-nature.co.uk/wildlife-garden-videos/leaf-cutter-bee-megachile-using-observation-nest-box-video/
and also to appear in my new video soon!

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Dawn July 1, 2014 at 9:51 am

I am so happy to have found your site. I’d noticed a solitary bee entering and exiting my greenhouse carrying leaves when entering and had found one of my plants to ‘rest’ on, but on closer inspection found it had burrowed into the soil. I knew I needed more information and came across this site. Thank you for the insight you’ve given your readers and thank you in helping me understand these wonderful little creatures

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nurturingnature July 1, 2014 at 4:34 pm

My pleasure Dawn. Cheers George

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Paula Large July 5, 2014 at 3:34 pm

Great website. Thank you. I have been watching a couple of leaf cutter bees that have been busy making their nests in one of last years hanging baskets that I haven’t re planted this year. I just have a couple of worries. If it rains will it wash the nest away? and also the basket is situated just above my gas barbecue, will the smoke harm the bees. I’d hate to do them any damage. They are such a pleasure to watch.

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nurturingnature July 5, 2014 at 5:06 pm

Hi Paula, thanks a for your comments. Hm, drown your bees or smoke them? :-)

The leaf pieces they put together would allow rain, or damp to enter the cells. I would see if you could put some kind of waterproof roof over the basket as a precaution. If possible delay your BBQ for a short while it will not bee long before the females die and their offspring can then be moved to a better mouse proof location. Hth cheers George

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Paula Large July 5, 2014 at 5:49 pm

Thanks George
I’m quite happy to do what you suggested. How will I know when it’s safe to move the basket?

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nurturingnature July 5, 2014 at 7:57 pm

When you no longer see the leaf cutter bees. Beware the mice and monodontomerus wasps though, a video is one my web site. Hth cheers, George

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Paula Large July 5, 2014 at 8:11 pm

Thanks again, mice not a problem, can you suggest any deterrents for the monodontomerus wasps. I did watch your video. Sorry to keep asking, but I kind of feel responsible for these lovely bees. Used to be terrified of bees/wasps as I stood in a wasps nest as a child!! Still not got over my fear of wasps though!

rose Simmons July 8, 2014 at 11:08 am

Hi George,I noticed they 3 of my large roses, which I grow in pots, have been severely attacked by what I now know is the leaf cutter bee.I also found a large amount of the cuttings burried in another pot of summer bedding plants,, I was just about to treat the whole lot with a pesticide but decided out of curiosity to look up the problem online,,, I am so glad I did. Thank you for the information, I will not be spraying now, as I too realise the benefits of bees, as I have fruit trees in pots as well, I am an elderly gardener, and live in a small bungalow with no garden so grow everything in pots, thanks again for the educating information,, Rose

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nurturingnature July 8, 2014 at 6:57 pm

Good for you Rose. Glad you thought before you did!! Enjoy your bee pollinated fruit! Thanks for your comments too! Cheers, George

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Al July 10, 2014 at 7:48 am

My bees made 5 nests, but this morning one looks disturbed and the others have moved from being sealed from the mouth of the tube to half way down it, what’s happening

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nurturingnature July 10, 2014 at 7:30 pm

I assume you mean leaf cutter bees? There are rather scruffy nest makers. I have found that sometimes they simply leave pieces of leaf scattered inside a cavity. They may do this to store them whilst they feed and come back. The do get eaten and they do die before completion. Fingers crossed they will return. Cheers George

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Anne Marie July 12, 2014 at 9:22 pm

Hi not sure if this is still a visited site ….. However I have just brought a small narrow boat, and am in process of painting etc and have noticed a leaf cutter entering the rail that runs the length of the boat. Have read this article with great interest. I had planned to turn the boat around, however I may wait a few weeks to give her a chanceto finish her work!! :)

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nurturingnature July 12, 2014 at 9:48 pm

What a lovely gesture! It will not bee that long before she dies :-( thanks for letting me know. George

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carole July 13, 2014 at 2:11 pm

hi, just been watching leaf cutter bees in my garden going in and out of my hanging flower bag,i can’t wait to have a look later in the year,
We also have some type of bee in our roof under the tiles I feel so lucky ,am a complete bee addict.

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nurturingnature July 13, 2014 at 4:53 pm

Probably tree bumblebees under roof tiles. Will bee! All dead soon :-( cheers George

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Hilary July 18, 2014 at 10:27 am

We have just discovered leaf cutter bees in the holes underneath our favourite bench seat. We were puzzled as to why they were buzzing round our knees as we sat there and so we investigated. I now intend to construct a bee house from sawn lengths of garden cane and hope to persuade them that this might be a better option for them. (Not quite sure how we will do this!) Thanks for a very interesting and informative article.

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nurturingnature July 18, 2014 at 4:44 pm

Hi Hilary, Nice story and thanks for your comments. Although they are harmless and them buzzing around your knees is interesting, continually nesting in the same cavity will eventually lead to them being unsuccesful there. Difficult one for you… wait until late spring next year and check them out, block the holes to stop them using before they start again up then offer your alternative homes! Cheers, George

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Hilary July 19, 2014 at 12:32 pm

Thanks for the advice. the new bee house is in place under the seat, so it should be easy for them to find and check out. So far they seem to prefer the screw holes in the seat. I think we can live with that!

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carole July 20, 2014 at 1:31 pm

how long does it take for leaf cutter bees to emerge from their pod? I don’t want to disturb them unless I have to.

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nurturingnature July 20, 2014 at 6:23 pm

Hopefully late spring/early summer next year !! Cheers George

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carole July 20, 2014 at 10:05 pm

that long, thanks.

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nurturingnature July 21, 2014 at 10:33 pm

Thats nature!! Cheers, George

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deb July 21, 2014 at 4:42 pm

We had tree bees in a bird nest box April to June is it okay to empty the box in the autumn and could they return next year. As much as I enjoyed having the bees I also want birds what do you suggest?

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nurturingnature July 21, 2014 at 10:31 pm

Yes OK to empty the box, likely you will have wax moths inside it….
http://nurturing-nature.co.uk/wildlife-garden-videos/bumblebees-and-wax-moths-the-silent-but-deadly-killers-must-see-video-2/

Either way completely clean out the nest box, put nest onto compost heap or bury it to decompose. Difficult to stop bees seeking out a place to nest…. Cheers, George

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Maureen July 21, 2014 at 8:22 pm

Hi George, I have a leaf cutter bee making a nest in my greenhouse. It is in a pot of parsley and the bee is going in through a drainage hole in the bottom, lovely to watch. Should I stop watering altogether and will the nest survive over winter in a very cold greenhouse. Thank you. Maureen.

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nurturingnature July 22, 2014 at 5:33 pm

will email you Maureen. G

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Maureen July 23, 2014 at 8:07 am

Thank you George. I will do that.

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Daphne Golding July 23, 2014 at 8:19 am

Hi, I came across this website whilst seeking info on what I thought were bumble bees carrying leaf pieces as they flew. One was seen entering the drainage hole of a suspended planted pot. How will I water the plant? I do not want to upset or harm the bees. Could I feed the plant by spraying the leaves with plant food when the bees are not around?

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nurturingnature July 23, 2014 at 8:20 pm

Hi Daphne, If possible could you get me a photograph please….of the bee preferably with a leaf!! Thanks, George

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nurturingnature July 23, 2014 at 10:12 pm

Daphne, done some research and contacted a solitary bee expert. It’s fine to water the cells, they are waterproof!! Hth cheers, George

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Daphne Golding July 27, 2014 at 10:00 pm

Hi, I managed to take a photo yesterday of one of the bees as it rested on the shed wall, with a leaf on tow! It was a very hot day and the poor thing must have been tired as it rested there for quite a while. Sent the picture by email to website. Hope you receive it.
Daphne

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Heather July 27, 2014 at 6:58 pm

Hiya, thanks for the info! I’ve got a small disused planter in my garden, it’s a bit weedy but I didn’t want to throw it out as it was in a nice watering can shape hehe, anyway, I’d noticed bees going inside the planter, looked like they’d made holes in the earth in there, and there always seemed to be bees going in with bits of leaves, so I’m guessing these were leafcutter bees! They seem to have left now, but I did have a sneaky peek inside and there were many leaf ‘cigars’. These have bees waiting to hatch? How long dos it take? Will it be next spring when they emerge?

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nurturingnature July 27, 2014 at 8:39 pm

Hi Heather, yes hopefully have bee larva inside and yes hopefully you will have adult bees late spring! If you can take a photo of the cells inside the planter and if it is suitable I may put in the the page. Thanks for sharing, Cheers, George

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Vanessa July 27, 2014 at 9:33 pm

I brought a bee house last year which was just a frame with bamboo tubes in it, it was very inexpensive but was the best money I’ve ever spent. I was lucky enough to have leaf cutter bees in it the first year, they filled all of the tubes and all but one hatched out. I,ve got two houses this year and my leaf cutter bee,s are busy filling the tubes, I,ve even got a couple of tubes filled by a maysonary bee. They are an absolute joy for me to have in the garden and even find the holes in my rose leaves really quite charming. I would recommend buying a bee house to anyone that loves nature. :-)

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nurturingnature July 28, 2014 at 3:39 pm

Absolutely right although I am against tubes and the like as per my article and previous experiences! Thanks for sharing, George

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Ian Savile July 28, 2014 at 3:01 pm

Hello,
Thanks for this information. I have a couple of the solitary bee homes in my garden, which have bamboo stems for the bees to make nests. A few years ago I saw mason bees flying in and out, and this year some of the tubes have been filled with leaves, and I have seen bees flying in with their leaf building material. It would be good to know what should be done at the end of the season. Will this year’s bees leave the tubes in a condition to be used again? Should I replace them with new baboo? Should I clean them out?
Thanks,
Ian

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nurturingnature July 28, 2014 at 3:42 pm

Hi Ian,I am against bamboo canes and the like as per my article. The leaves is turn brown and not used again. The soft green leaves are more amenable to being manipulated and chewed by the bee. Yo have to split the canes open and clean the cocoons out. I will email you! Thanks for sharing, George

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Fiona August 17, 2014 at 5:51 pm

Hi, I have a leaf cutter bee living in a plant pot on my garden table. Its only a shallow tray and I’m concerned that the nest could be drowned when we next have heavy rains. I’ve seen above comments about covering the nest over to prevent this. Can I move the pot or should I cover it where it is, on the table? I don’t want to confuse the bee by moving it’s home. Many thanks, Fiona

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nurturingnature August 17, 2014 at 9:30 pm

Hi Fiona, yes put a cover over it to keep it dry and allow bee to carry on for the remaining life it has. Hth George

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Morgan November 5, 2014 at 11:11 am

Hi, I noticed that you ‘over-wintered’ a couple of cells. I have some cells from a home made nest box that was damaged – how can I over-winter these so that they still hatch in the spring?

Thanks!

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nurturingnature November 6, 2014 at 7:55 am

Hi Morgan,

Can you email me please. Thanks, George

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Colin March 3, 2015 at 6:18 pm

Hi, I have been keeping red mason need a number of years now, however this year done of my tubes are full of the paper cigars you’ve described. I know what I should do with the mason bees but what is the best thing to do with the leaf cutter bees, extract the cocoons or just place the tunes back in the best and let them fend for themselves?

Any help appreciated

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nurturingnature March 7, 2015 at 8:07 pm

Hi Colin, remove the out leaves and store them separately from your red masons away from mice. If you want to email me re how you deal with red masons I may be able to add something. Cheers George

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Helen Warner March 31, 2015 at 6:51 am

Hi,
I am hoping you can help me, I have a combined ladybird & solitary bee box. The ladybird box is a the bottom & makes up the majority box, the bee section is at the top directly under the box roof. The tubes are bamboo which I (now) know is not the best so I will try to change it. However my question is do I need to clean out the tubes? I think I have Mason bees because the tubes look filled with dirt rather than leaves, will the new bees push this out when they leave the box or will I need to clean the tubes ready for the next occupants? Thanks Helen

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nurturingnature April 6, 2015 at 10:16 am

Hi Helen, I will email you. Cheers, George

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Denise elyot April 13, 2015 at 11:00 am

Last autumn I had the privaledge of watching a leaf cutter bee make a ‘nest’ in a disused stone cat
garden water feature tube. When finished she sealed the entrance with the last circle of leaf. This is still in place and fingers crossed a new leaf cutter bee will come out live and kicking so to speak.

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nurturingnature April 13, 2015 at 9:59 pm

Denise, nature always amazes me! the starkest of place to let your offspring survive1 thanks for sharing. Cheers, George

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Courtney April 20, 2015 at 4:15 pm

Hi there,
last summer, to my delight, a leaf cutter bee decided to make it home in our plant pot which it accessed through a hole in the bottom of the pot. Recently we have been seeing a bee flying around near that same pot. So I was wondering what the likelihood is that this bee is another solitary bee? Do you think it may make itself a home in the same pot from last year? I only ask this as I would like to try and provide the best environment for the bee as it was such a wonderful experience last year watching this bee build her (or his I’m not really sure) home. I even managed to capture them on video which was lovely.
Hope this all makes sense. Thanks for taking the time.
Kind regards
Courtney

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nurturingnature April 21, 2015 at 7:38 am

Hi Courtney, if you live in the UK, highly unlikely to be a leaf cutter bee, a few mining bees and a few red mason bees are around now.Leaf cutters are early summer not spring bees. I could suggest a good leaf cutter bee home……!!!! Cheers, George

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jean April 22, 2015 at 7:46 pm

hi George we have beecutters for last 2 years.dowe need to clear the holes in cain tubes . or just leave them thanks

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nurturingnature April 23, 2015 at 7:41 am

Hi Jean, Clean them out, leave them in their ‘cigars; and buy new bamboo canes.Cheers, George

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Jill-Marie Wilson May 20, 2015 at 9:35 pm

Hi George,
I just purchased my first leaf cutter ‘home’ complete with bees in a box, isn’t that something! So my first question is how long until the bees emerge from their little bed and go to work? Secondly, living in British Columbia, how am I storing the little cigars over the winter, and what box is ever going to be mouse proof? I do not have a garage or shed, but do have a carport that is open on one large side all winter. Thanks for such a great site, loads of info!!

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nurturingnature May 21, 2015 at 7:09 pm

Hi Jill, Thats great!! Mice will get into many different boxes so mine are very thick plastic, with an air tight lid, with a small air hole in it covered with a metal mesh. My experiences are UK based. I expect your bees came with instructions? If not you should ask your supplier for instructions, which all my customers receive, they will be best able to advice you of looking after the bees in BC.You are now a wild bee keeper and at the start of a very rewarding, interesting and fulfilling journey.They will be happy to advice you I’m sure. Good Luck, Thanks for sharing, George

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Gary June 12, 2015 at 3:17 pm

I have for about five years now been getting leaf cutter bees nesting in a space in my flat roof I have read that they are solitary but I have seen at least five bees all using the same entrance point sometimes queuing to get in they are definitely leaf cutters always returning with a piece of leaf tucked below their abdomens do they only last a year and are they new bees every season unfortunately I have to replace the roof soon and really don’t want to disturb them so if they only last one year i would like to time the roof replacement for when they are no longer there if they hibernate hopefully I can move them into another nest site any advice please

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nurturingnature June 14, 2015 at 6:54 am

Hi Gary, they are solitary but will share an entrance to a cavity where several may be nesting. They do not live very long perhaps 2-3 weeks. Their offspring will remain in the nest site till next this time next year, so if you are careful, you may be able to find them when you repair the roof and place them in a more suitable location. Cheers, George

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Jean June 15, 2015 at 2:49 pm

thanks for all the info on leaf cutting bees – I have noticed some entering the holes near the bottom of several plant pots in my greenhouse recently and wondered what was going on. I will leave them to complete their nests. Incidentally there seem to be far more bees around this year, particularly black bees.

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nurturingnature June 15, 2015 at 8:50 pm

Lucky you, my solitary bees are the worst in over 20 years… they are using the medium in the plant pots for their nests… which hopefully will be successful for next years generation. Thanks, For sharing, George

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barbara June 18, 2015 at 10:41 am

I opened two of my wooden bee boxes as I hadn’t seen anything hatch all the bees are dead and gone to dust there must have been about two hundred has any one else come across this ?? barbara

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nurturingnature June 18, 2015 at 11:24 am

Hi Barbara, send me some photos please very hard to say without1 Thanks, George

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Joanne June 20, 2015 at 5:11 pm

Thank you for this information! I (like so many others who have commented here) noticed some bees flying in and out of our lavender plant pots last week carrying bits of leaves and I was fascinated watching them so looked online to identify them and found your site. We try and plant lots bee friendly wild flowers in our garden (and they adore the lavender) so it’s nice to know that some of them have made our garden their home.

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nurturingnature June 20, 2015 at 10:08 pm

Hi Joanne, it can be rather interesting and later can be addictive watching these busy bees. Providing food and now a home for them allows you to observe this interesting solitary bee at close quarters. Thanks for sharing. Cheers, George

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Maureen June 21, 2015 at 12:05 pm

Can you reuse the boxes once the bees have gone?

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nurturingnature June 21, 2015 at 12:13 pm

Which boxes Maureen, the ones I sell or other peoples? I give full instructions on how to clean my solitary bees and bumblebees nest boxes. I don’t know about other suppliers. Get back to me if you want more information. Cheers, George

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Lynda June 27, 2015 at 10:30 am

Hello George, we have just watched a leaf cutter bee making its nest in our stone planter. It’s nest is in exactly the same spot as a nest made two years ago, although since then the planters has had all the soil and plants renewed. It can’t be the same bee, so is it the grand daughter bee ? Do they return to their birthplace like swallows ? We love them ! Thank you for this great site with lots of good information.

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nurturingnature July 1, 2015 at 6:49 pm

Hi Lynda, yes they will return to their old nest site, so it’s a good possibility!! Thanks, George

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Jo Sheppard July 6, 2015 at 3:37 pm

Hi there, in need of some advice re a new leaf cutter in my garden.
She seems to be making her nest inside a growbag I have for some tomato plants.
I was just wondering if I should move the growbag to the end of the garden ( not far, literally 6 feet away ) or just remove all the other veggie pots that I’m growing around the growbag, to move them away so she’s not disturbed.
Also, can I keep watering the toms? I can leave the one on the end that she is in no problem. I’m just thrilled that I’ve got bees!
Any advice gratefully accepted.
Regards
Jo

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nurturingnature July 7, 2015 at 7:08 pm

Hi Jo,
It never ceases to amaze me where these bees nest! Best leave it where she is nesting as very likely she will not find it if moved. Keep watering the plants, perhaps less volume but more frequently!!! Good luck!Cheers, George

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Jo Sheppard July 7, 2015 at 8:13 pm

Thanks George, I’ve already decided to just carry on as normal so as not to confuse or disturb her. Any idea how many eggs she’s likely to lay? Will they just fly off never to return? Or is there some specific attraction to my garden? (its nothing special). I’m hoping they hang around for a bit :)

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Janet Warner July 11, 2015 at 11:18 am

I have several leaf cutter bees nesting in the cavity of the brick wall of my pond. I need to replace the copings on the wall but don’t want to disturb the bees. When would be the best time to work on the wall without disturbing the bees or is it possible to move them and if so how and when would be the best time to do this. I don’t want to destroy the bees. Any advice would be very much appreciated. Thanks.

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nurturingnature July 15, 2015 at 4:04 pm

Hi Janet, I would leave them till you no longer see them using the nest site. Then if if you want to work go ahead but do not fill in the holes that the bees were using! The resulting larvae are very delicate and are best left in situ so do not move them. HTH Cheers, George

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Gill Phillips July 14, 2015 at 10:39 am

Hi George, what an interesting web site. It told me so much more than I wanted to know! I was sitting in my small walled garden on a nice day last year when I saw what I thought was a bee wearing a green skirt disappear in a group of miniature succulents growing in a small round 5″ diameter ceramic pot. Having caught my attention I then saw it on several more occasions when I was having a coffee in the garden. I thought it might be a leaf cutter bee which was confirmed when I discovered some circular pieces cut out from the leaves of nearby rose shrubs. I think there might be more than one bee nesting in the pot and I am pleased to see that they are still popping in and out this year. Obviously the pot is being treated with utmost respect. Fascinating. Gill

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nurturingnature July 15, 2015 at 4:06 pm

Great stuff Gill. A bee wearing a green skirt!! I love that description! Enjoy your coffee and thanks for sharing! Cheers, George

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Tate Oulton July 19, 2015 at 5:20 pm

Hi while taking a plant out of a pot, I’ve found the soil to be full of leaf cutter larvae in their cells. I don’t want them to die, but I don’t know if there is a way I can rescue them – by reburying them or similar. Any advice would be much appreciated! Thanks

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nurturingnature July 19, 2015 at 9:40 pm

Hi Tate, they can be kept alive if they are still inside their cells. I will email you. Cheers George

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Karen July 20, 2015 at 12:16 am

Hi George. I have a Leaf Cutter bee’s nest, in my garden. It’s in the brick work under my Window Sill. She is gathering her petals and leaves and taking them into the hole. My concern is how many eggs will she lay and how will I know when they hatch so I can seal the hole up. I was told 6-8 eggs, but having read numerous sites it can be up to 25-40 eggs at one time. ? I was also told spring is when they hatch. I can not see the actual nest just the location of were the bee is going. So cant really see for myself if and when they hatch at all. Any advice. ? Kind regards.

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nurturingnature July 23, 2015 at 7:57 pm

Hi Karen, its difficult to say how many eggs a particular female will lay in one cavity. There are many factors that can effect this. Early summer next year and wait till you see the external leaf seal breached, then wait a while as males emerge first followed by females. Why would you want to seal the hole up preventing these harmless valuable bees? Cheers George

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Sharon July 20, 2015 at 11:48 am

I planted a rose bush this year in our shared garden and whilst hanging washing out one afternoon last week I noticed a bee hovering around the rose plant. I wondered why it would be doing this as there are no flowers on it; the bee then started flying towards where I was stood and I noticed something odd sticking out at the back under it as it got closer I realised it was a piece of leaf at this point the bee and leaf piece disappeared into a small round hole in the mortar of our very old wall. I checked the plant out after this and realised that all the new leaves have lots of pieces cut out of them. A much keener gardening friend called later that day and was also bemused about a bee that cuts pieces of leaves out. Since then of course I have learnt why, I guess we could be buying more roses for next year!

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nurturingnature July 23, 2015 at 7:54 pm

Hi Sharon, the rose will recover! Thanks for sharing, George

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Rex Baker July 21, 2015 at 3:40 am

Do you know if the leaf cutter bee is good at pollinating elderberry bushes.
Thanks, Rex

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nurturingnature July 21, 2015 at 7:08 am

Off the top of my head Im unsure. Here in the UK, I know hoverflies and other insects do….If you find out, let me know please. Cheers, George

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Geoff beck July 21, 2015 at 3:42 pm

Im thinking of making a leaf cutters home out of doweling, what diameter would you suggest and what size holle should I drill.
Thanks.
Geoff

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nurturingnature July 21, 2015 at 10:31 pm

I’d buy one Geoff! Saves you the trouble. Cheers, George.

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Sarah July 21, 2015 at 7:42 pm

Hi there, I’m after some advice please.
Today, while gardening at my very elderly mother in laws place we noticed a leaf cutting bee, busy making a nest in a small crack in the wood of her balcony! It is directly underneath the door to her lounge and where she sits when the sun is shining. Whilst realising that these bees are great for the garden and should be nurtured, we really can’t allow it to nest here. Does anyone know what we can do to get it to move out and prevent it coming back.
Any advice greatly appreciated. Thank You

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nurturingnature July 21, 2015 at 10:30 pm

Hi Sarah, These bees are completely safe around humans. Why can’t they simply stay where they are.Why exactly cant you allow it to nest there? It will not be that long before this leafcutter is dead and her offspring safe inside the cavity….Cheers, George

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Lee Anderson July 22, 2015 at 8:15 am

Richard

After the bee has completed her task of laying her eggs, when will the young bees ‘fly the nest’? Bees have nested in my succulent display outside back door and I would like to enter this display in our local horticultural society competition on Saturday. Obviously I don’t want the young bees to emerge in the village hall!

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nurturingnature July 22, 2015 at 10:57 pm

Hi Lee, I’m assuming you mean leaf cutter bees? Leave them in situ, they will not emerge until possibly June next year. HTH, Cheers, G

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Emma August 6, 2015 at 5:20 pm

Hi
I have watched a bee today plugging a hole in our wall next to the back door. I was initially worried there could be a nest inside but then after reading through your site I have realised this will not be the case and I now know it was a leaf cutter bee. Just wanted to check that there was no risk of them burrowing deeper into the house. I never knew bees did this so it was interesting to watch.
Thanks
Emma

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nurturingnature August 6, 2015 at 10:37 pm

Hi Emma, They use existing holes in walls often made by man, such as nail holes, missed sections of mortar between bricks, etc. Leave them bee!!! You are helping our little friends! Cheers, George

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Zoey Sherwin August 9, 2015 at 11:08 am

We found a leaf cutter bees nest in parasol as we put parasol up, it fell out on to table, so is not attached to anything anymore, what is the best thing to do with the nest? Please help as left on table open to all elements of weather will not hatch. Thank you

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nurturingnature August 9, 2015 at 10:28 pm

Zoey, if you have a cigar type role leaves, there will be individual cells inside with hopefully bee larvae. Put them inside a container in a shed, outbuilding in the warm not direct sunlight. Cheers, george

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Zoey Sherwin August 11, 2015 at 10:02 am

Thank you very much yes there is a cigar shaped tube, we wrapped it in an old cloth and put it in greenhouse but out of direct sunlight. Will it be alright in the cloth or do we need to put it in a container? Thanks again Zoey

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nurturingnature August 16, 2015 at 11:06 pm

Zoey, the container has to be mouse and parasitoid proof. See

http://nurturing-nature.co.uk/wildlife-garden-videos/pteromalus-wasp-leafcutter-bee-parasitoid/

Cheers, George

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Dave M August 29, 2015 at 10:01 am

Hi George thank you for such an easy to understand guide, I have a bee box in my garden which is now half full, I have even seen a bee carry a leaf into the handle of my wheelie bin a joy to observe
regards
Dave M

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nurturingnature August 29, 2015 at 7:54 pm

Why Dave, thanks so much for your comments and taking the time to comment on my web site. When I get a little time I will be updating that page. Thanks, George

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nurturingnature July 5, 2014 at 10:55 pm

Hi Paula, I will email you. Cheers George

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