Leafcutter Bee

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Joined August 2008

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The Megachilidae are a cosmopolitan family of (mostly) solitary bees whose pollen-carrying structure (called a scopa) is restricted to the ventral surface of the abdomen (rather than mostly or exclusively on the hind legs as in other bee families). Megachilid genera are most commonly known as mason bees and leafcutter bees, reflecting the materials they build their nest cells from (soil or leaves, respectively); a few collect plant or animal hairs and fibers, and are called carder bees. All species feed on nectar and pollen, but a few are cleptoparasites (informally called “cuckoo bees”), feeding on pollen collected by other megachilid bees. Parasitic species do not possess a scopa. The brightly colored scopa leads to a colloquial name used occasionally in North America – “Jelly-belly bees.” Megachilid bees are among the world’s most efficient pollinators because of their energetic swimming-like motion in the reproductive structures of flowers, which moves pollen, as needed for pollination. Ironically, one of the reasons they are efficient pollinators is their frequency of visits to plants, but this is because they are extremely inefficient at gathering pollen; compared to all other bee families, megachilids require on average nearly ten times as many trips to flowers to gather sufficient resources to provision a single brood cell.
North America has many native megachilid species, but Alfalfa leafcutter bees (Megachile rotundata) are an imported species used for pollination. The most significant native species is Osmia lignaria (the “Orchard Mason Bee” or “Blue Orchard Bee”), which is sold commercially for use in orchard crop pollination, and which can be attracted to nest in wooden blocks with holes drilled in them (which are also sold commercially for this purpose). (wiki)

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