Leaf cutter bee cutting petals

Leafcutter bee on Partridge Pea Corolla

I am super excited to share these photos with you today!  I struggled all summer to get a photo of a leaf cutter bee cutting some of the petals off my partridge peas, and I finally managed it!  In order to get these photos, I had to memorize the sound of the bee’s flight.  They are SO FAST.  The whole process of cutting off a section of petal only takes them a couple of moments and then they are gone.

Leafcutter bee on Partridge Pea Corolla
I kept finding cut corollas like this one
Leafcutter bee on Partridge Pea Corolla
Leafcutter bee on Partridge Pea Corolla
Leafcutter bee on Partridge Pea Corolla
Partridge pea is a pretty (and interesting) plant

Leaf cutter bees usually cut…well, leaves.  But some species will occasionally make their nests out of flower petals.  Early in the summer, I noticed tell tale circular cuts out of the delicate corollas of one of my experimental plant species (Chamaecrista fasciculata).  I tried everything to get photos of them, even borrowing time lapse cameras from a friend and setting them up to take photos every 15 seconds from dawn til dusk. (I can share some of those later because I did catch some cool things…but no leaf cutter bees.)

Leafcutter bee on Partridge Pea Corolla
SQUEE!

And of course, it wasn’t until the very end of summer, when I had lost all hope and was taking down my experiment…that I finally had the chance to get a photo.

Leafcutter bee on Partridge Pea Corolla
Leafcutter bee on Partridge Pea Corolla

So, while I was doing a destructive census of my experiment (cutting down all above ground biomass), I would keep an ear out for that buzz. And when I heard it, I leapt to my feet, grabbed my camera (kept near at hand) and tried to snap as many photos as I could. I only had a couple of chances, so the adrenaline was on my side!

Leafcutter bee on Partridge Pea Corolla
Leafcutter bee on Partridge Pea Corolla
Leafcutter bee on Partridge Pea Corolla
Leafcutter bee on Partridge Pea Corolla
Leafcutter bee on Partridge Pea Corolla
Leafcutter bee on Partridge Pea Corolla
MINE!
Leafcutter bee on Partridge Pea Corolla
She’s actually flying away with a petal here, but it is very difficult to see
Leafcutter bee on Partridge Pea Corolla
For some reason, I think this is adorable
Leafcutter bee on Partridge Pea Corolla
Leafcutter bee on Partridge Pea Corolla
I think she got confused and started cutting another petal but whatever that’s a few more seconds for me to take photos!
Leafcutter bee on Partridge Pea Corolla
Leafcutter bee on Partridge Pea Corolla
Pretty flower, pretty bee…I can only imagine how pretty their nests are, all made out of satiny yellow petals. But I have no idea how to find one!

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20 thoughts on “Leaf cutter bee cutting petals

    • It’s actually a native legume called Partridge Pea (Chamaecrista fasciculata). There are a few references of Megachile using petals instead of leaves (they can even use plastic bags). Neat! I’ll check out your post.

      • Thanks for your reply, and the answers too. Plastic bags, that’s a sign of the times for sure. Its a pity us humans, (the majority, that is), cant come to terms with the harm plastic causes to the aquatic, and terrestrial environments. Thanks again,

        Mick

  1. I love the adorable one too – its so funny. Like holding onto a comfort blanket! We have Megachile vesicolor in our garden – she takes limes leaves and alpine strawberry leaves and makes her nest in our house – it a wooden house and she uses the gaps between the boards. It’s great to watch them coming and going and knowing our house has its own little ecosystem!

  2. Brilliant photographs! The leaf cutters in my bee houses usually use leaves but one year one of them used pink rose petals. I have never actually caught any of them in the act of cutting the leaves – yet. Amelia

  3. Had our first leaf cutters in our bee ‘guest house’ this summer. But they stuck to leaves not petals. Surely petals are too flimsy and short lasting for their purpose? Discuss, using one side of the exam paper only. RH

    • Haha, I don’t know…they are very particular about which petals they use so they surely have some selection criteria. Potentially they layer multiple petals, and the petals may have some antimicrobial properties.

  4. Pingback: The Amazing World of Bees – Campus Buzz

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