Rose leaves are favourite snack of Leaf-Cutting Bee

One day recently when sitting out in the garden I noticed a slate paving stone with a green patch and there just happened to be an insect sitting on it.

I thought I had not seen this green mark there before, then, to my surprise the green patch just flew away. I thought I was seeing “things” as green patches just do not fly away, it was soon out of sight and I was left to ponder what was going on.

The next day on a nearby stone trough there was the answer, a bee was sitting near a small hole amongst the rocks and underneath the bee was a green patch of leaf which was larger than the bee.

The bee then rolled up the leaf segment into a sausage shape and with some difficulty proceeded to manoeuvre it down into the hole which it must have created amongst the stones, my first introduction to a Leaf-cutting Bee.

I looked around and several other bees were at work with patches of leaves. A book on insects said that rose leaves were one of their favourite leaves and as there are rose bushes nearby I went to examine them and sure enough, very neat circular and oval sections were cut out of many of the leaves. The bees have large jaws for cutting the leaves and make a superb neat job. The area they cut out is larger than the bee, which is a little larger than a honey bee, and they can fly away holding it beneath their body with their feet.

It is really strange to see green leaves flying around.

Only very tidy minded gardeners would grudge a few segments cut out of their rose leaves and the bees will make use of a range of other plants.

Every female Leaf-cutting Bee is a solitary egg laying queen, unlike honey bees where there is one queen and thousands of workers to look after the brood. The Leaf-cutting Bee overwinters as a larva and emerges as an adult in early summer. The leaf pieces which she cuts out are cemented together with saliva to make a cell and each is provisioned with pollen moistened with nectar onto which one egg is laid before the cell is capped. The egg then hatches and the larva lives on the food stored by the female in the cell and will remain there until it emerges as an adult the following summer. A female is able to produce 12 to 15 cells and offspring in her life span which is about 60 days.

The day I saw my first bee I received an email from a friend at Manderston informing me that he had seen a Leaf-cutting Bee for the first time this year and subsequent inquiries have turned up records at Allanton and Burnmouth, by friends who had never witnessed them before.Books on bee distribution have them as occurring in this area but I thought it interesting that a number of people saw their first Leaf-cutting Bees all at the same time.