What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Subject: Leafcutter Bee?
Location: Grand Rapids, MI
May 31, 2014 4:11 pm
Hi –
Our neighbor’s front yard hill appears to have been colonized by bees. After doing some research, I think they are leafcutter bees, as they very diligently drag small circles of leaves into tunnels just barely big enough to admit them, and as they ignore the people around them, even when walking past carrying stuff as new renters move in, or even once going down the hill, burying some of the tunnels.
The entire hill in the first picture is riddled with holes, seems like 100’s of them. The tunnels fill the space between the stairs and our lower yard, but they stop there, and I do not see any holes in our yard. There are a few beyond the stairs, by the low retaining wall, above the mulched area. In between the houses is a stand of Japanese Knotwood that I keep intending to go after, but they are very stubborn, and I wonder if those are the draw for the bees?
I hope you can confirm this (or give me another possibility), and I hope you have some suggestions to encourage them to find other nesting / denning locations, as the landlord is determined to exterminate them with a spray come Monday.
I’ve included a shot of the whole hill, one picture that has the bee (it was tough to get a good pic, both because my iTouch camera is not the greatest, and bc they move fast!), and in the last pic I finally caught one of the leaves that was being dragged into the tunnel – it’s in the upper left, curled to the left rather in a rather conical shape.
They are fascinating to watch, and I hate to see them go, but I understand the desire not to have the colony so close to the front door of the house. I just want to know if there’s a way to discourage them from living there, without killing them.
Help?
Thanks!
Signature: Pioden

Leaf Cutter Bee

Leaf Cutter Bee

Dear Pioden,
The behavior you describe is exactly that of solitary Leaf Cutter Bees in the family Megachilidae (see BugGuide), but we are unable to determine the species based on your images even though the images document the behavior you have described.  We cannot think of any way to deter the Leaf Cutter Bees from their nesting site.  Though solitary in nest construction, these bees are will often nest in close proximity to others of the species.  We are sorry to hear about your landlord’s eradication plan.  The Leaf Cutter Bees do not live in the nest as the nest is strictly provisioned for the progeny.

Leaf Cutter Bee taking leaf into nest

Leaf Cutter Bee taking leaf into nest

Thanks for your reply! I’m hoping to get out there today with a better camera, see if I can get a few good shots of them.
Where do the bees then “sleep”, or overnight?  There is a large stand or Japanese knotwood nearby, do you think that has anything to do with them?
Natalie Beversluis

Hi Natalie,
The Leaf Cutter Bees will seek shelter in shrubbery and other locations during the night.  The stand of Japanese knotwood might have some bearing on the presence of he bees.

 

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination
Location: Grand Rapids, Michigan
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