Megachile / Leafcutter Bee
Female leafcutter bee (Megachile fidelis) on aster. © Celeste Ets-Hokin
Female Megachile perihirta. © Rollin Coville
Male Megachile perihirta. © Rollin Coville
Common Name: Leafcutter Bee
The female leafcutter bee carries pollen on the underside of her abdomen. The abdomen is dark with varying intensities of lighter colored banding. The female abdomen is tapered, while the male abdomen is more rounded.
The female carries pollen in a brush of specialized hairs, called a scopa, on the underside of her abdomen. The hairs can be grey, black, tan or yellow in color. When loaded with pollen, the entire underside of the abdomen assumes the color of the pollen being collected.
The female bites off carefully shaped pieces of leaves to use in constructing her nest, giving rise to the common name “leafcutter bee,”.
Leafcutter bees are generalists, and can be excellent crop pollinators. One species, Megachile pugnata, is known as the “sunflower leafcutter bee,” due to its great affinity for flowers in this family.
Many leafcutter bees will readily occupy artificial tunnel nests.
Size: Small to medium sized bees, from under 1/2 to more than 3/4 inch in length.
Megachile is a large genus of almost 1,100 species, with representative species on nearly every continent. The genus is widespread and abundant throughout North America.
Number of species in North America
Late spring to summer
Tunnel nesting, preferably in wood or hollow plant stems. A few species are ground nesters.
Pollinated Garden Crops Include
Additional Flowers Visited in Natural Areas
Baptisia (wild indigo)
Parkinsonia (paloverde, Jerusalem thorn)