Broad-banded Leafcutter Bee (Megachile latimanus )

30 July

This species was accidentally introduced into North America during World War II through the movement of nests in crated war material. Once in North America, they developed large populations under favorable conditions. Prefers a dry, warm habitat with temperatures exceeding 69 degrees Farenheit. Although Megachile latmanus is most active under these conditions, this species needs a colder temperature in order to break diapause and complete metamorphosis.

Moderate-sized, stout-bodied and dark colored. They average about 10 to 20 millimeters in length. Leafcutting bees, like other bees, are covered in tiny, branched body hairs that assist in collecting pollen. This particular species carries pollen on a brush of hair on the ventral side of the abdomen. Males have 13 antennal segments and 7 abdominal tergites, whereas the females have 12 antennal segments and 6 abdominal tergites. Like most other bee species, leafcutting bees have an elongated tongue for reaching the nectar of flowers.

One of the most distinguishing characteristics of leafcutting bees is their nest building behavior. Once a suitable tunnel has been found, usually a hole bored in wood or crevices in between rocks, a bee will build a thimble-shaped tube using leaf cuttings. Equipped with large mandibles, the bee cuts circular discs from the leaves of rose bushes and shrubs to build its nest. Bees transport the leaves by rolling them between their legs. In the first cell of the tunnel, the bee uses small, round leaves and then larger oval pieces. Plant juices and bee secretions are used as a paste to hold the leaves together. The bee will then fill the tube with a pollen and nectar mix and lay an egg on top of the food supply. Using more circular leaf cuttings, the bee then builds a tight fitting plug for the nest, which makes the nest water proof. Leafcutter bees are solitary insects.

After completing metamorphosis within their nests, most adults will remain withing the nest to overwinter, chewing their way out of the cell the following spring