Bees of the Week: genus Megachile

Colorado's gentle giant: Megachile inermis

Colorado’s gentle giant: Megachile inermis, a high elevation species that nests in Aspen

Scientific name: Megachile

Common name: Leaf-cutting bees

Family: Megachilidae

Nest type: Leaf or Petal pieces; Chewed Leaves

Size: 3/8″ to 1″ long

Nest tunnels used: 3/16″ to 7/16″

Looks like: varies, but generally black with white hair stripes

If the bushes in your garden look like they’ve been victimized by someone wielding a hole punch, you can bet some Megachile species are working in the neighborhood. Although some of your flower petals and leaves may end up a little lighter than you’d planned, consider this the nest building tax you pay in exchange for the pollination services of this diverse genus (it contains 59 species in Colorado!). Some use the neatly cut leaf/petal circles to line cells and plug their nests, while others don’t line cells and chew up the leaves, adding resin to make a plug.

Leaf cuts made by Megachile sp.

Leaf cuts made by Megachile sp.

Megachile load up pollen on their bellies rather than their legs. In the words of Drs. Beatriz Moisset and Stephen Buchmann, keep an eye out for insects that look like “flying cheetos snacks”. Multiple generations come out of one nest all summer long so you’ll have plenty of chances!

DID YOU KNOW: The world’s largest bee belongs to the Megachile genus. Megachile pluto, otherwise aptly named Wallace’s Giant Bee, hails from Indonesia and females can grow up to 1.5″ long and have a 2″ wingspan. You’d think giant bees would be hard to miss, but as they build their homes inside active termite nests, even natives in the area thought they were extinct until 1981.

Additional information:

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