May 11, 2009

Leafcutter bees

I saw the telltale sign this morning: the leafcutter bees have arrived. When I came here I was puzzled at what insect might be making these perfect holes in some plants' leaves. Would they do the plant in? After some investigations I found out that these plant leaf circles are lining for a new bees nest. The female leafcutter bee digs a small tunnel in a pithy stem, lines it with the leaf cutting, deposits pollen and nectar for the egg and seals up the hole for the new bee to develop next spring.

Leafcutter bees are solitary bees and important pollinators. Apparently their sting is very mild and it only delivered when the bee is handled. Well yeah ... The damage to the plant hosting the nest as well as the plant providing the leafy lining is minimal, and although plants with well-formed leaves are nice, pollination of plants is more important to me.

I wonder how many varieties of bees there are here. I hope to be more educated while participating in the Great Sunflower Project. In regard to that, the sunflowers that I planted at the horse barn are down from a dozen to 3. At first I blamed the rodentia living under the tackroom, but now I think that they may have been some damping off. The 6 sunflowers in the garden are still alive and hopefully will take off soon.

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