Leafcutter Bees

Leafcutter bees are named for their habit of cutting out circular pieces of leaves from cultivated plants. Leafcutters are stocky, robust bees with large eyes. They range in colour from grey to brown and can be boldly marked with orange, white, red, or yellow. Pollen is transported on the underside of their abdomen. When this is fully packed it makes a bright patch of colour on their bellies— readily visible as they forage from flowers.

Mass-flowering trees such as acacias are among the wide range of plants visited by leafcutter bees. Wildflowers are visited for pollen and nectar, and leafcutter bees are especially efficient at ‘tripping’ the flowers of Crotolaria, Indigofera, Tephrosia, and other legume species.

Nests of leafcutter bees are distinctive and unique, constructed from overlapping circles of cut pieces of leaf taken from a variety of plants. Generally those having fairly flat, smooth leaves are chosen, and are glued together with resin and waxy secretions. Nests can often be found on furniture, walls of buildings, and other man-made structures.


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Leafcutter bee carrying leaf to nest by D. J. Martins
Leafcutter bee carrying leaf to nest by D. J. Martins
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Large leafcutter bee approaches Crotolaria brevidens by D. J. Martins
Large leafcutter bee approaches Crotolaria brevidens by D. J. Martins. Note large patch of pollen on the bee's underside.
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Leafcutter bee cutting leaf-circles by D. J. Martins
Leafcutter bee cutting leaf-circles from a capsicum by D. J. Martins
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Leafcutter bee on Crotolaria by D. J. Martins
Leafcutter bee on Crotolaria by D. J. Martins
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Megachile sp. on Crotolaria by D. J. Martins
Megachile sp. on Crotolaria by D. J. Martins
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