July 02, 2010

Jelly-Belly Bee Excavating Nest

Also known as mason or leafcutter bees, jelly-bellies carry pollen on their scopa, the fuzzy yellow area on this bee. They are solitary bees and don't live in colonies. Instead, one female leafcutter bee will dig out a nest, create nest cells and provide her young with food. Adult females may live up to two months and lay 35-40 eggs during this time. (Our honeybee queen is laying up to 3,000 eggs a day.)

At least one species of leafcutter bee is cultivated for agricultural use in Colorado. Megachile rotundata is used to pollinate alfalfa, a function that it does far more efficiently than honeybees. The leafcutters are provided with predrilled "bee boards" to use for nest construction. At the end of the season, the nest cells with developing bees are collected and carefully stored, to be released the subsequent season when alfalfa blooms (June).

Leafcutter bees are important native insects of the western United States.


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