Animal Species:Leafcutter Bee

Leafcutter bees in the genus Megachile are common visitors to Sydney gardens where they feed at a number of different flowering plants. Not all of the species in the genus are leafcutters; some construct nests using resin.

Leafcutter Bee Megachile sp

Bruce Hulbert © Bruce Hulbert

Standard Common Name

Leafcutter Bee

Number of species

153 described

Identification

Male Leafcutter Bees have highly modified feet with a number of dark markings. Different species of leafcutter bees have different markings. Females usually have stout mandibles for cutting leaves, large heads in proportion to the body, and stout parallel-sided abdomens.

Size range

5 - 14 mm

Distribution

Leafcutter Bees are found in all states and mainland territories. A single species is found on Lord Howe Island.

Habitat

Leafcutter Bees live in urban areas, forests and woodlands, heath.

Life cycle

Gardeners may notice circular holes in soft-leaved plants, such as roses. These are made by the female leafcutter bee, which uses the leaf to line her nest. She provides each egg she lays with a pollen and nectar mixture, and leaves the eggs to hatch into grubs, which will eat the provisions before pupating.

Mating and reproduction

It is believed that during courtship the male leafcutter bee passes his feet over the female's eyes in a rubbing motion. She uses the patterns to identify the male as the correct species and potential mate.

Classification

Genus:
Megachile
Subfamily:
Megachilinae
Family:
Megachilidae
Superfamily:
Apoidea
Suborder:
Apocrita
Order:
Hymenoptera
Class:
Insecta
Subphylum:
Uniramia
Phylum:
Arthopoda
Kingdom:
Animalia

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Tags bees, insects, invertebrates, arthropods, identification, wildlife of sydney,

2 comments

David Britton - 9.01 AM, 14 January 2011

Dear Rose, species of leaf-cutter bee in the genus Megachile occur in all states and mainland territories of Australia. I have updated the fact sheet distribution information to reflect this. I have no idea why the species Megachile chrysopyga was used as an example here, but interestingly it is a species that is restricted to West Australia! Not all of the 153 described species in the genus are leaf-cutters - some use resin to make their nests for example.

Rose Schaaf - 8.12 PM, 29 December 2010
Your distribution lists the bees as 'found in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania'. However, I live in the south of Western Australia, and found them cutting our roses. I have never seen anything like it before. Are they suposed to be local to the area?

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