Leafcutting bees in action
Leafcutting bees are everywhere. Dozens of them nest in my backyard, and I’ve seen alfalfa fields served by massive leafcutting domiciles containing millions of these little bees. I’ve photographed them drinking nectar, collecting pollen, carrying leaves, and building nests, but I have never—ever—seen one cutting leaves.
But a few days ago, I happened across this YouTube video of a leafcutting bee doing what she’s known for. The video is about four minutes long, but the first minute is the best.
I was amazed at how fast these little bees cut out what they need. The circles have smooth and clean edges, but it’s the speed that fascinates me. The other odd thing is that they sit on the piece they’re cutting out. You would think they would drop to the ground as the disk breaks loose, but no. They have everything well under control.
The photo beneath the video is one I took at home. The leafcutting bees here prefer to nest in the hollow spots between the mason bee tubes, even though tubes of the proper size and shape await just a few inches away. They usually use leaves to line their nest, but some prefer petals.
After watching the video, I’m tempted to plant a Thunbergia (black-eyed susan vine) just to see if the leafcutters will slice away. I’m not sure how picky they are about the things they use. In the alfalfa fields, even though I don’t see them cutting, the domiciles smell thickly of alfalfa, an odor that reminds me of barns and silage and horses . . . heavenly.
I hear leafcutting bees love roses, but I’m not into roses because of all the deer we have here. So tell me, what do leafcutting bees cut in your area. Any suggestions?