Leaf-Cutter Bee on Leaf
Leaf-Cutter and Mason Bees
- Habitat: Wide variety of habitats
- Range: Worldwide
- Size: 7 - 20mm (9/32 - 3/4 inch)
- Species: 3,000
- Family: Megachilidae
These two bees love to build. The Leaf-cutter bee has a natural creative flair and will cut through leaves creating the perfect shape to roll up into tubes. It then builds its house from their. The Mason bees are also great builders although they use mud to construct their nests.
The Leaf-Cutter bees and Mason bees belong to a large family of bees known as Megachilidae of which they are quite diverse in shape and color. They generally have stout and dark brown or black bodies with pale yellow or deep yellow markings. Some Mason and Leaf-Cutter bees have metallic blue and metallic green colors to them. The various species that collect pollen hold their pollen with a brush of hairs which grow from underneath their abdomen.
Finding a Home
The Leaf-Cutter and Mason bees unlike most do not dig or burrow their nests, they find cavities and holes that have been naturally created. This way they save themselves a lot of effort and time. They find these holes in dead wood, hollow stems and even snail shells, in fact anything that is big enough for a larvae to grow into. Now that a place has been found, the bee gets to work on improving their new home. The Leaf-Cutter bees get their name from a special skill that they have developed; they cut circular holes in leaves and bring the pieces back to their nests to create protective walls for the cells. Some species of the Leaf-Cutter bee use wool from plants for extra protection.
The Chalicodoma monticola, a species of Leaf-Cutter bee has a large head with strong mandibles used for cutting leaves. Its nests in hollow plant stems such as bamboo canes and builds cells out of mud or from a resin mixture. Megachile centuncularis is a typical leaf cutter bee that cuts away at rose leaves. It takes this cut out and rolls it up into a cylinder which it then places in holes in tree trunks and dead wood. She then seals the bottom of the tube with another cut from a leaf protecting this cell from any other insects or fungal growth. She then collects nectar and pollen from many flowers and creates honey putting this sweet food in the bottom of her newly created home She then lays one egg with the blob of honey. After this she gets another piece of leaf and closes the bottom of the whole so that the honey and egg are stored away. She then repeats this process until the whole tube has been divided into segments each containing drops of honey and one egg. The whole cell is then closed off with a final shed of a leaf.
The Mason bee makes mud cells under stones or in burrows. Some Mason bees use the nests of other bees rather than make their own. The females of the Osima bicolor species always builds her nest in old snail shells. Having laid her eggs in this protective case, she closes the entrance and covers the snail's shells in grass.
Wool Carder Bees
The wool carder bee also belong to the family of the Megachilidae. They are also referred to as the 'hoop shaver. Wool carder bees are relatively hairless and have yellow stripes on their abdomen. The males are large than the females. The wool carder bee gets its name from its habit of stripping the woolly coating off the stems and leaves of various plants. They roll this wool up into a ball and carry it to a hole that they have found or have prepared. They then line their nest up with this wool which acts as a protective barrier for the nest. They then create transparent membranous cells to lay their eggs in.
The larvae of Leaf-Cutting and Mason bees are stout and much fatter towards the rear end of its body. The larvae are fed on honey and pollen.
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Leaf-Cutter and Mason Bees: Megachilidae: discover the fascinating lives of the various types of bees and wasps in the world.