There are two kinds of bees easily available online in the US and Canada that will come right to your mailbox in the regular mail: Mason bees and Leafcutter bees. I had a lot of fun setting up my first bee house and watching the mason bees go to town this spring. They don’t live long though and finally the weather here in the Pacific Northwest has gotten just about warm enough for Leafcutter bees. I bet you can’t guess how these gals protect the eggs they lay? They cut leaves to protect each egg.
As we’ve learned, here at Bees and Wax, there are thousands of kinds of bees beyond the honey bee. These are solitary bees that do not live in hives or make honey, but they do the amazing work of pollinating, so we all can EAT. Thanks again bees! Anyway, leafcutter bees are little, smaller than the Mason bee and need hot weather. They prefer it in the 80s (Fahrenheit), but the packaging from Crown Bees says they need it at least over 70 F. They use nesting tubes just like Mason bees, but instead of packing their eggs in mud, they use tiny pieces of leaves that they cut and carry to their nesting tubes or holes.
Leafcutter Bees: A Hot Weather Bee
Leafcutter bees are used commercially to pollinate alfalfa crops and are great for other late season and hot weather fruits and vegetables. They do need lots of open blossoms nearby and it’s not just any old leaf they use. According to Mason Bee Revolution by Dave Hunter, who is also the founder of Crown Bees, Leafcutter bees prefer rose or lilac leaves. If you have neither, try to provide something similar. They like leaves that are not too thick or too thin, with few veins. And don’t worry about them damaging plants; They just cut a tiny bit. Look for little circular holes and you’ll know the bees have been there.
Buying Bees Online
Mine came in the mail this week. I still find this shocking. A little nylon mesh bag filled with tiny leafcutter bee cocoons arrived in a padded enveloped, as if they were no more alive than a package of tape or post-its. They were all safely inside their little leaf cocoons.
I set up the little house I got for them and set the open mesh bag inside on top of the few nesting tubes that would fit. I will probably move them into the larger mason bee house once I clear out the mason bee nesting tubes for safe storage. But for now their little house is screwed to a post in a spot that gets decent morning sun.
It’s been four days and I haven’t seen evidence of the bees except that many of the cocoons look empty. I hope they like the house enough to use it and don’t just move over to the neighbors. We do have lilacs and roses not too far away. Welcome little leafcutters! I hope soon to catch a glimpse of them lugging big ol’ pieces of leaf to their nesting area. I will keep you posted. Coming soon: a review of the leafcutter kit I’m using.
As always, thanks bees!