Jelly Belly Bee!

Here you can see her pollen-coated belly!

Megachilidae

. Sounds like a monster pepper to me!

Megachilidae

is a family of mostly solitary bees. Mason and leafcutter bees are the most common members of the family. Solitary bees don't have hives or elaborate social structures like the honeybee. Females make use of cavities an appropriate size to pack pollen and nectar into--then laying an egg and walling off the cell within her chosen tube. They may use rotting wood, hollow stems or even

constructed housing

provided by avid wildlife gardeners or farmers desiring their services.

So here, in these photos, we have a leafcutter bee enjoying my snapdragons in Western North Carolina. Now as I'm sure you all know, being fabulous students of biology in school, honeybees have a modification of their back legs that is flat and sort of spoon-like that they pack pollen onto to carry back to the hive (saddlebags!). This modification, specific to the purpose of carrying pollen, is called a scopa. Well. Leafcutter bees don't have scopas on their legs. They have them on their abdomens. So once they have packed pollen onto their bellies, they become JELLY BELLIES!

OK, that's just a colloquial term, but you have to admit it's fun. Sort of like yellow-rumped warblers being called "butter butts." Much more endearing.

Wanted to have a better shot of the waspy-stripe-ishness--best I got!

Solitary bees, having no hive to defend, are not big on stinging. Can you think of a pollinator you'd rather have in a residential garden? This particular bee is probably of the genus

Anthidum

, which was originally European. The big clue is the broken bands of color across the abdomen.

There are many different species of leafcutter bees. If you have found leaves with almost perfect circles cut out of them, then you have probably been hosting some leafcutter bees. You can find a great photo of this type of leaf injury at the "Leaf Cutter Bees" publication from Colorado State link found in the sources, or at Bug Info (also below).

One of the reasons that homeowners might like to encourage leafcutter bees is the decided lack of motivation on the part of leafcutters to sting.  Handling them is the only guaranteed way to get them to sting, apparently.  And even if they do, the entomologist so devoted as to subject himself to stings from multiple species of bee likens the sting of leafcutters as "lightly brushing a thorn" (Bug Info). Way cool!

I had not set out to attract leafcutter bees-- I was hoping for mason bees, who have the same type of nesting behavior.  But that, of course, was before I found out that leafcutter bees are really JELLY BELLIES.

Sources:

Wikipedia

High Density Housing: Revisited

,

Nesting and Development of Solitary Bees

,

Leaf Cutter Bees

,

Bug Info

,

Elda's Field Notes

,

Anthidium

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