Every once in awhile, the What’s That Bug? editorial staff needs to dust off the camera to get a photo just to prove we can. While gardening today, we were observing a pretty little bee we have seen in the summer in the past, but are unsure as to its identity. It flies very rapidly, and in flight, it looks pale blue. It has a striped abdomen and the ventral surface is bright yellow. There are not noticeable pollen sacs and we are wondering if the bee collects pollen on the hairs of the abdomen. If flies very quickly and erratically, and is difficult to capture photographically. After about a half an hour, our efforts were rewarded. Now we hope Eric Eaton can tell us what this beauty is.
Within minutes, Eric wrote back: “Daniel, Yes, it is a female leafcutter bee, genus Megachile, and yes, she does collect pollen in a dense brush of hairs on the underside of her abdomen. Leafcutter bees nest in pre-existing tunnels in wood (some species do make burrows in the ground). They fashion individual, barrel-shaped cells from plant cuttings. A leafcutter can shear a perfectly oval (or round) piece from a leaf in under 30 seconds! The round pieces cap the finished cell. Inside each cell she packs a ball of pollen and nectar for a single offspring. She lays an egg in the finished cell, caps it, then begins a new cell stacked atop the first, repeating this for the length of the tunnel. These are amazing insects, and vital pollinators of both wild and cultivated plants. Eric”