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Leafcutter bees

Leafcutter bees are wonderful pollinators. They are hard workers and beneficial to have around if you don’t mind a few holes in the plant leaves.
Photo courtesy of Colorado State University

Radio interview source: David Serrano, Assistant Professor of Biological Science, Broward College

Listen here to the radio story (mp3) or read below

Watch the bees buzz around your flowers. Some of them are leafcutter bees, which are beneficial pollinators and native to North America.
 
David Serrano is an assistant professor of biological science at Broward (BRAU’-ward) College in Florida. He says leafcutter bees are about the same size as the common honeybee, but somewhat darker with light bands on the abdomen. They are not aggressive, and sting only when handled. The leafcutter bee is a solitary insect, making its own nest rather than living in a colony.
 
"What they’ll do is they’ll gather up the pollen, and then kind of make a ball out of it, and lay an egg," he says. "And then they’ll deposit that into the little nest they make in a cavity. Sometimes it’s in the ground, sometimes it’s in cavities within a rotten log or wood, even the stems of plants, like dried dead stems. Even right in the roses, sometimes, that some people have an issue with."
 
Leafcutters are often used as commercial pollinators for crops such as alfalfa and blueberries. But they can excavate the pith out of pruned rose canes to make a home. They also cut fragments from leaves to line their nest cells. 
 
Serrano says leafcutter bees usually don’t cause great damage unless there are heavy populations of them. But if you want to protect your prize roses, you can throw cheesecloth over the plants, and plug up nesting holes.
 
Holes could be plugged up with sealing wax, or candle wax, or thumb tacks, or wooden dowels, or even a few drops of white glue or something like that would actually plug that hole up, and it would eliminate that hole for more bees to be produced, and therefore hopefully reducing the amount of leafcutting damage you’ll see," says Serrano.
 
On the other hand, if you’d like to attract leafcutters to your yard, Serrano says you can lash together bundles of hollow reeds or drill holes in a block of wood to provide nesting options.

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