Megachile / Leafcutter Bee

Family: Megachilidae

Genus: Megachile

Common Name: Leafcutter Bee


Physical Appearance

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

Nearly 140


Emergence Time

Late spring to summer


Nesting Habit

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)

Visited Plants

Agastache / Giant Hyssop

Amorpha / False Indigo

Asclepias / Milkweed

Chamerion / Fireweed

Chrysothamnus / Rabbitbush

Clarkia / Clarkia

Cleome / Spiderflower

Coreopsis / Tickseed

Cosmos / Cosmos

Dalea / Prairie Clover

Echinacea / Purple Coneflower

Erigeron / Fleabane

Eriogonum / Buckwheat

Eryngium / Eryngo

Gaillardia / Blanketflower

Geranium / Geranium

Grindelia / Gumweed

Helenium / Sneezeweed

Helianthus / Sunflower

Larrea / Creoste Bush

Liatris / Blazing Star

Lupinus / Lupine

Monarda / Beebalm

Nepeta / Catmint

Phacelia / Scorpionweed

Penstemon / Beardtongue

Pycanthemum / Mountain Mint

Ratibia / Prairie Coneflower

Rhododendron / Rhododendron

Rosa / Rose

Rudbeckia / Coneflower

Salix / Willow

Schscholzia / California Poppy

Silphium / Rosinweed

Sphaeralcea / Globe Mallow

Solidago / Goldenrod

Symphotrichum / Aster

Verbesina / Wingstem

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Megachile / Leafcutter Bee

Male Megachile perihirta. © Rollin Coville