Brief Summary

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Leafcutter bees (Megachile spp.) are so named because the females cut pieces of leaves with their mandibles to line their nests. There are more than 140 species of leafcutter bees found in North America and many of them are native. They are often grayish in color and about the size of the European honey bee (Apis mellifera). Unlike European honey bees, leafcutter bees are solitary bees. Solitary bees usually build and live in individual nests rather than in a hive or with a colony of bees, while social or communal bees do live colonially in hives or bee communities. Mason bees, along with leafcutter bees, make up two main groups in the Megachilidae family. These bees are found throughout the world.
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Life Cycle

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Leafcutter bees are solitary but gregarious, preferring to nest in groups. Males and females emerge in the spring and mating occurs shortly thereafter. After mating, females will begin constructing their nests. Nests are composed of a string of individual cells, each made from plant leaves. In each cell the female places a pollen ball and lays one egg; she then caps the cell with several leaf pieces. Once the nest is finished, the female caps the nest with a solid plug made of cemented leaf pieces. The eggs hatch into larvae, consume the pollen ball, and enter hibernation. The following spring, the larvae pupate and turn into adult bees. Adult females can live up to two months and lay between 35 and 40 eggs.
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Habitat

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Leafcutter bees are native to woodland areas. Nest sites include a variety of locations such as hollow plant stems, soft, rotted wood, ready-made wooden cavities, and drilled wood nesting blocks.
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Pollinator

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The alfalfa leafcutter bee (Megachile rotundata) is the most well-known pollinator in this group of bees. It is used commercially to pollinate alfalfa, carrot, onion, and blueberry crops. It also has potential as a pollinator of strawberry and melon crops, although it has not yet been used commercially with these crops. Other leafcutter bees also provide pollination services. Generally, leafcutter bees are important pollinators of wildflowers in the United States, particularly prairie wildflowers, and visit the larger flowers in the bean (Fabaceae) and aster (Asteraceae) families. Studies have shown leafcutter bee species pollinate peanut (Arachis hypogaea) crops and do so in the cool morning hours when this plant is most efficiently pollinated. Outside of the United States, several studies have looked at leafcutter bees as pollinators. In Egypt, Megachile flavipes pollinates Egyptian clover (Trifolium alexandrinium) a traditional forage crop in Egypt, and alfalfa. Megachile nigripes also pollinates Egyptian clover. In West Africa, leafcutter bee species are the most efficient pollinators of okra. Finally, leafcutter bee species are the most important pollinators of Vellozia leptopetala and V. epidendroides in Brazil. Both are members of the fibrous, shrubby plant family Velloziaceae.
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Comprehensive Description

provided by Smithsonian Contributions to Zoology
Chalicodoma (Pseudomegachile) flavipes (Spinola)

I found a female of this leafcutter bee on the morning of 12 May in a 6.4-mm boring (No. 235), set on the edge of a flat roof of the one-story Apicultural Laboratory in Dokki. The bee had not begun any nesting activities in the inner end. It is not known whether she had selected this boring as a potential nesting site or had just entered it for shelter overnight, but previously published data, as summarized below, suggest that she intended to nest therein.

Gutbier (1915, pp. 32, 52) stated that in Russia, flavipes nested in all kinds of cavities in which it constructed mud cells in a series of one to three ranks. The entrance to the nesting cavity was closed by a tampon of mud.

Alfken (1934, p. 147) noted that in Egypt, flavipes nested in mud walls, especially of native huts and therefore the assumption might be that it is not a leafcutter.

Mavromoustakis (1939, p. 159) found two elongate mud cells of this species on clothing within a room of his house in Cyprus.
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bibliographic citation
Krombein, Karl V. 1969. "Life History Notes on Some Egyptian Solitary Wasps and Bees and Their Associates (Hymenoptera: Aculeata)." Smithsonian Contributions to Zoology. 1-18. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.00810282.19

Megachile

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 src=
Male Megachile

The genus Megachile is a cosmopolitan group of solitary bees, often called leafcutter bees or leafcutting bees; it also includes the called resin bees and mortar bees. While other genera within the family Megachilidae may chew leaves or petals into fragments to build their nests, certain species within Megachile neatly cut pieces of leaves or petals, hence their common name. This is one of the largest genera of bees, with more than 1500 species[1] in over 50 subgenera.[2] The introduced alfalfa leafcutter bee (Megachile rotundata) is managed for crop pollination in various regions around the world.

Ecology

Nests are sometimes constructed within hollow twigs or other similarly constricted natural cavities, but often are in burrows in the ground. Nests are typically composed of single long columns of cells, the cells being sequentially constructed from the deepest portion of the tunnel outwards. The female places an egg in each cell with a supply of food, generally pollen, sometimes mixed with nectar. She builds a cap and walls off the cell. The larva hatches from the egg and consumes the food supply. After moulting a few times, it spins a cocoon and pupates, often after several months of hibernation as a prepupa. It emerges from the nest as an adult. Males, which are typically smaller and emerge in advance of females, die shortly after mating, but females survive for another few weeks, during which time they build new nests. Numerous families of wasps and bees parasitize Megachile nests, including Gasteruptiidae, Leucospidae, Sapygidae, and various kleptoparasitic megachilids, such as the closely related genus Coelioxys. Megachile rotundata and Megachile campanulae are among of the first insects documented in scientific literature to use synthetic materials for making nests.[3]

Many Megachile species use cut leaves to line the cells of their nests. It is thought that the leaf discs help prevent the desiccation of the larva's food supply.[1] Various species in the genus, especially those in the subgenus Chalicodoma and related groups, do not use cut leaves to line the cells, but instead use fairly dry plant resin, which they carry in their mandibles. The subgenus Chalicodoma includes the world's largest bee, Megachile pluto, as well as one of the largest megachilids in the United States, the recently introduced Asian species, Megachile sculpturalis.

Some Megachile species have no lobe (arolia) between their claws, thus are unable to climb smooth walls or glass.[4]

Diversity

The genus Megachile contains 56 subgenera with 1520 recognized species.[1] See also the list of Megachile species.

Notable subgenera:

Notable species:

Gallery

References

  1. ^ a b c Wedmann, Sonja; Wappler, Torsten; Engel, Michael S. (2009). "Direct and indirect fossil records of megachilid bees from the Paleogene of Central Europe (Hymenoptera: Megachilidae)". Naturwissenschaften. 96 (6): 703–712. Bibcode:2009NW.....96..703W. doi:10.1007/s00114-009-0525-x. PMID 19296064.
  2. ^ Michener, Charles Duncan (2000). The Bees of the World. Baltimore: JHU Press. p. 556.
  3. ^ MacIvor, J Scott; Moore, Andrew E. (31 December 2013). "Bees collect polyurethane and polyethylene plastics as novel nest materials". Ecosphere. 4 (12): art155. doi:10.1890/ES13-00308.1.
  4. ^ Baker, Donald B.; Engel, Michael S. A new subgenus of Megachile from Borneo with arolia (Hymenoptera, Megachilidae). American Museum novitates ; no. 3505
  • Baker, D.B. & M.S. Engel, 2006: A New Subgenus of Megachile from Borneo with Arolia (Hymenoptera: Megachilidae). American Museum Novitates 3505 : 1-12. doi:10.1206/0003-0082(2006)505[0001:ANSOMF]2.0.CO;2. Full article: [1].
  • Durante, S. ; A.H. Abrahamovich & M. Lucia, 2006: The subgenus Megachile (Dasymegachile) Mitchell with special reference to the Argentine species (Hymenoptera: Megachilidae). Neotropical Entomology 35 (6): 791-802. Abstract and full article: doi:10.1590/S1519-566X2006000600012.
  • Durante, S.; Cabrera, N. 2009: Cladistic analysis of Megachile (Chrysosarus) Mitchell and revalidation of Megachile (Dactylomegachile) Mitchell (Hymenoptera, Megachilidae). Zootaxa, 2284: 48-62. Abstract & excerpt
  • Engel, M.S., 2008: A new species of Megachile (Eutricharaea) from western Saudi Arabia related to Megachile walkeri (Hymenoptera: Megachilidae). Acta Entomologica Slovenica 16(2).
  • Niu, Z.-Q.; Wu, Y.-R.; Zhu, C.-D., 2012: A review of Megachile (Chelostomoda) Michener (Megachilidae: Megachilini) known from China with the description of a new species. Zootaxa, 3267: 55–64. Preview
  • Wu, Y.-R., 2005: A study on the genus Megachile Latreille from China with descriptions of fourteen new species (Apoidea: Megachilidae). Acta Zootaxonomica Sinica 30 (1): 155-165.

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Megachile: Brief Summary

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 src= Male Megachile

The genus Megachile is a cosmopolitan group of solitary bees, often called leafcutter bees or leafcutting bees; it also includes the called resin bees and mortar bees. While other genera within the family Megachilidae may chew leaves or petals into fragments to build their nests, certain species within Megachile neatly cut pieces of leaves or petals, hence their common name. This is one of the largest genera of bees, with more than 1500 species in over 50 subgenera. The introduced alfalfa leafcutter bee (Megachile rotundata) is managed for crop pollination in various regions around the world.

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