Leafcutter bees are a solitary insect. This means that each nest is independent of others. However, it is most common to find several in close proximity of one another without conflict. Their territories can be quite extensive – over several acres – depending on local food and shelter. And since there are hundreds of species found throughout the lower 48 states of America, they can vary in color and size. Many look like common honey, bumble and carpenter bees but the one sure clue they’re leaf cutters is when you’re finding solitary nests with plant parts inside.
Leafcutter bees will overwinter in prepupal and pupal stages. They are among the earliest if not the very first bee to begin pollinating. They are not too sensitive to bad weather and will readily work when most other bees will remain home in the comfort of their colonies. For this reason Leafcutter bees are highly desirable.
In case this is not what you’re looking for, we also have in depth articles on: BUMBLE BEES CARPENTER BEES DIGGER BEES HONEY BEES MASON BEES
LEAFCUTTER BEES ARE ACTUALLY QUITE BENEFICIAL ^
In fact, they are so desirable that many gardeners and farmers actively install LEAFCUTTER BEE HOUSES on and around their property. Hang them up virtually anywhere and either species will readily take advantage of the ideal nest sites they provide. Nesting bees will work the landscape in and around your property insuring healthy pollination. With Honey Bee populations declining, the installation of these homes can have a big impact on local plants. Furthermore, making such houses readily available will undoubtedly help reduce nesting activity on your house! If you have either Leafcutter bees nesting on your home or causing destruction to one of your favorite plants, you may not be too interested in providing them a house in which to live. However, it is very possible that such installations could dramatically reduce nesting on your home and should therefore be considered. The reason for this is simple. Either species requires a special type cavity in which to nest. They will actively seek such cavities but when none can be found their quest for nest sights can become a problem.
Leafcutter Bee House: http://www.bugspraycart.com/yard/houses/mason-bee-house
LEAFCUTTER BEE BIOLOGY ^
As the weather warms, Leafcutter bees will begin to emerge and immediately start looking for nest locations. Nest sights will be cavities that are anywhere from 1 inch to several feet deep. Such cavities can be found anywhere and are generally preferred to be around 9/32 to 5/16 of an inch in diameter. Such cavities can be found in old tree stumps, rocks, the ground or even live trees. In fact, they will readily take advantage of old mud dauber and paper wasp nests! The size of these nests are just what most Leafcutter bees like so it’s a natures way of recycling! Once a suitable nest is located, queens will actively search for food – pollen – along with nest sealing material. During this time she will mate so fertile eggs will be produced as the nest is constructed.
Nests are constructed by first placing food in the chamber, next laying an egg on the food and lastly by sealing the egg and food with a type of plaster. This plaster is usually made from mud or some cellulose product like paper or old wasp nests. It can also be made from plant parts like leaves. Once sealed, the eggs will have all they need to develop and grow and one day they will emerge ready to continue the process. Since nests are dependent on a healthy supply of pollen, expect to have activity during any one growing season. For this reason northern territories may only have one generation active per year but southern regions could have several develop.
Leafcutter bees are generally passive and not very aggressive. However, they can sting and will do so if handled or aggravated. For this reason they are best left alone. However, the opportunity for nest sights which most any home or structure presents to Leafcutter bees is so great that they can become a major nuisance if nesting is ignored. Furthermore, they can cause damage to both homes and plants which is unsightly and unacceptable.
LEAFCUTTER BEE NESTS ^
Leafcutter bees will readily nest on any structure which presents a prime location. One of the more common locations they like to use are the weep holes found around windows and doors. Such weep holes are common on brick homes but are used more today then ever as a way to help keep moisture from rotting the structure. Furthermore, builders will commonly use tubing in these weep holes which Leafcutter bees love! They will readily find such tubing and quickly nest in it. When sealed, the tubing will cease to function causing moisture and water problems for the building. Leafcutter bees will also create their own nests when none are easily found. Either will chew through wood, mortar and stucco and though such chewing is usually not going to hurt the structural integrity of the building, it will certainly be unsightly.
Cedar and Leafcutterite sided homes are not immune to this behavior and virtually any overhang will attract them to soffits and fascia boards. Holes in such areas are usually shallow and small but will certainly be both annoying and aggravating. Leafcutter bees have learned that most any home has an abundant supply of nest locations and taking advantage of them seems to be at an all time high. It appears that once a house has activity it will get more and more every year. This probably happens because if a structure has something unique about it which Leafcutter bees like, the young of the original nests will return to it attracted by the same features.
LEAFCUTTER BEE DAMAGE ^
Leafcutter Bee nests on the home can become a problem but the damage they do to the structure is usually only superficial. However, in the yard, their damage can be quite real and have major impact on targeted plants. Leafcutter bee damage is done when they remove leaves from plants by cutting away small sections. In fact, it is very common for them to find a shrub or plant they find attractive and within a week or two damage all it’s leaves. When such damage happens rapidly, the plant may never recover from it’s loss. Remember, leaves play an important role for any plant. Without them they are not able to create food and eat. Leaves which are damaged by one or two bees will probably just look odd. The bees will typically cut away circular sections which are about 9/32 to 5/16 of an inch in diameter. This removal generally happens on the outside edge of a few leaves. If there are a lot of bees active, certain leaves will begin to suffer huge tissue loss and die; some will fall victim to plant disease or other insects. If enough leaves fall off, the plant could die.
LEAFCUTTER BEE SPRAY ^
Plants which are targeted by Leafcutter bees usually have some characteristic or feature they want. For this reason a few sections of leaves removed turns into a few more and soon a lot more. Damage will happen quickly since these bees work around the clock. If you find activity that is damaging a prized plant, apply some PERMETHRIN CONCENTRATE or PERMETHRIN DUST which will stop the bees immediately. Permethrin concentrate is an odorless product which is mixed with water and can be applied to any plant, fruit tree or vegetable. It won’t hurt the plant, treatments will last 1-2 weeks and Permethrin is active on just about any insect. Use one of our SPRAYERS for the treatment and be sure to get all of the plant. When Leafcutter bees return they will find the leaves uncuttable. This will force them to move on.
Permethrin 10: http://www.bugspraycart.com/insecticide/liquid/permethrin-10
Permethrin Dust: http://www.bugspraycart.com/insecticide/dust/viper-perm-dust-4-lb
Pump Sprayer: http://www.bugspraycart.com/good/pump-sprayers
The Permethrin Dust is the same product but in a dust formulation. Some people prefer this to liquid. One thing about the dust is that you can clearly see where you treat and where you miss. For small jobs, you can use a CRUSADER DUSTER to make the applications. This small hand held device is easy to use and helps to distribute the dust uniformly and evenly. If you have a lot of plants to treat, use a DUSTIN MIZER. This is a two handed tool which cranks and blows the dust 20-30 feet – great when needed to reach a lot of plants over a large area. Application time can be cut down dramatically. Again, this form of Permethrin can be applied to any plant, fruit or vegetable.
When deciding how many plants you should treat, the rule to follow is simple. When a plant starts to experience leave damage due to Leafcutter bees, you need to treat. If you have several plants of the same species, treat all of them. This will be needed because if you treat only one the bees will simply move to the untreated plant since it is the same species. If you only have one plant, you only need to start by treating that plant. Next, watch to see where they move. It is possible they will move to some adjacent plant which is a completely different species altogether or they could move to vegetation which is not even located on your property. Since you cannot be sure there is no need to broadcast your applications. Instead, play a wait and see game to learn just where they appear next and then treat that plant accordingly. Once applications begun, expect to perform followup applications every 2-4 weeks depending on local activity and populations.
LEAFCUTTER BEE CONTROL ON THE HOME ^
Leafcutter Bee nests on the home may not sound like a big deal but it can be a problem. Such activity usually starts out innocently and then blossoms into a major concern a season or two later. The areas where nesting is happening dictates just what products you should use and how they should be applied. If you have bee nests forming in weep holes or the tubing used for weep holes, it is important to keep these open and clean. Bee nests will quickly clog them and prevent proper water drainage. This blockage could lead to several other problems including water damage, termites and carpenter ants. To stop this from happening, there are two things you need to do. First, try to identify all weep holes around the structure. Next, clean them out making sure to remove all nests and nest components. The best way to do this is with a drill. Use a bit which is slightly smaller than the tubing. This will insure you don’t drill away the tubing altogether. The flutes of the drill bit will remove all the parts of the nest quickly. You can use a thin rod like a coat hanger for this application but many times all this does is push the nest further up the tube. This is why the drill works well at nest removal.
LEAFCUTTER BEE AEROSOL ^
Once the tube or hole is free and clear, use some PT MICROCARE and spray for a few seconds into the hole. Microcare uses Pyrethrin which is both fast acting and effective. It’s highly repellent to most any flying insect so they tend to avoid areas where it’s been applied.. Even trace amounts will keep them away. Treat once weekly and once all activity is gone, monthly. In most cases, new nests will cease to be formed after a month.
LEAF CUTTER BEES IN HOUSE SIDING ^
If leaf cutters have found their way into mortar cracks or gaps, use DRIONE DUST for fast control. It dehydrates all stages and will penetrate deep into all voids where they might be hiding. Use the CRUSADER HAND DUSTER for applying the Drione; 3-4 puffs per gap is all you need to apply and treatments will last 6-12 months.
BEST LEAFCUTTER BEE SPRAY ^
If the nests are being formed on decks, siding, stucco or some other part of the home because the bees are digging and chewing cavities, you will need to start spraying with CYPERMETHRIN. Use a good PUMP SPRAYER to apply the Cypermethrin being sure to treat the surface of all areas where activity was noted. The Cypermethrin will serve you by killing any which try to drill and chew new holes but it also works as a repellent since flying insects don’t like it. This means that even trace amounts will be detected by the bees and once they know it’s there they will stay away. In a short while they will be forced to find a home elsewhere. Such treatments are easy to do and should be done to all parts of the home which are similar to where the bees are currently targeting. This insures you don’t just push them around the building but instead force them to leave altogether. In some cases, it is not unusual for bees to still be seen flying around long after nests have been destroyed. This can happen because female pheromones may still be present and males are doing what they naturally do: seek females. However, the repellency of the Cypermethrin will prevent them from landing on the structure and usually within a few days or a week they will be forced elsewhere and should be gone.
Pump Sprayer: http://www.bugspraycart.com/good/pump-sprayers
During the time after the Cypermethrin treatment, you might notice a lot of bees hanging around. To many people, this can be both annoying and unnerving. Use some WASP FREEZE to knock these stragglers down quickly and from a long range. This product works fast and any which are stubborn enough to linger as it’s being sprayed will be killed. Use of this product should remove any unwanted activity so you can go back to doing things around the outside of the home with no uninvited guests.
Leafcutter bees are a common nuisance around and on the home. Since they are strong pollinators, placing a Leafcutter Bee House out can serve you in two ways. First, by keeping the bees close by you will help insure healthy pollination of local plants and second, by making good housing available the local bees will be less likely to live on your home.
If you have prized plants being damaged by the Leafcutter Bee, treat it with some Permethrin to help create a barrier through which they will not cross. Structures and other objects you wish to protect besides plants should be sprayed with the Cypermethrin. Once you start repelling them the local activity will be forced to find harborage elsewhere and will learn to stay off treated surfaces. This is very important if you are having a problem with them infesting weep holes. Within a season or two of local treatments, nesting on the structure should be easy to control and if houses were placed out, you can still take advantage of the Leafcutter bees ability to pollinate.
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