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Megachile perihirta, the furry leafcutting bee

The furry leafcutting bee, Megachile perihirta, is one of my favorite pollinators because it is large and showy. From a distance, this bee could easily be mistaken for a honey bee. But up close, it is hard to miss the large abdominal scopa where the leafcutting female carries her pollen load.

About the size of a honey bee, these bees are native to the western parts of North America. They are summer visitors, often seen in July and August. Although they forage on many different plant species, they have a preference for flowers in the Asteraceae family.

Like all leafcutting bees, the female of this species cuts round sections of leaves and flowers to line her nest and build divisions between the egg chambers. Although many leafcutting bees nest in hollow reeds and beetle borrows, this species prefers underground tunnels.

I wasn’t able to photograph a male, but the males have distinctive white “mittens” on their forelegs and a white face. Soon after they mate, the males disappear for the year and the females begin to work at provisioning their nests.

The open-centered dahlias that I mentioned in a previous post turned into a playground for these bees. The leafcutters work fast, flit around in the flowers, and pose beautifully. Yesterday, my camera sounded like it belonged to a fashion photographer. As the bees strutted around on their flowery runway, and I just kept snapping away and trying to capture the perfect expression.

Rusty
Honey Bee Suite

Leafcutter-on-dahlia-1
The furry leafcutting bees have taken a fancy to the open-centered dahlias. © Rusty Burlew.
Leafcutter-on-dahlia-2
Leafcutting bees have a characteristic posture, holding their abdomens high. © Rusty Burlew.
Leafcutter-on-dahlia-3
A view from the rear. Leafcutting bees often hold their wings out to the side when they forage, something honey bees seldom do. © Rusty Burlew.
Leafcutter-on-dahlia-4
Leafcutting bees have large mandibles, perfect for cutting leaves. In fact, the name Megachile means “large jaws.” © Rusty Burlew.
Leafcutter-on-dahlia-5
Here you can see her tongue. Although these bees are polylectic and will forage on many different plants, they seems to favor those in the Asteraceae family. © Rusty Burlew.
Honey bee and M perihirta
You can see that the honey bee (left) and furry leafcutting bee are about the same size. © Rusty Burlew.