Below is a list of frequently asked questions which might help answer some of the questions and queries you have with your bee product:
- When will my leafcutter bees emerge?
- What is leafcutter bee emergence?
- What triggers leafcutter bee emergence?
- When will I see leafcutter bee activity?
- What is leafcutter bee activity?
- I’m not seeing any leafcutter bee activity, is this normal?
- Not all my leafcutter bee cocoons emerged this season . . . why is this?
- Does the weather have an effect on leafcutter bee emergence & activity?
- Does the positioning of my Leafcutter Bee House affect emergence & activity?
- How do I know if my leafcutter bees have emerged?
- When will leafcutter bee activity slow down?
- Can I move my Leafcutter Bee House to a better position/location?
- What’s the difference between a male & female leafcutter bee?
- What is contained inside a leafcutter bee cocoon?
- Does every leafcutter bee cocoon contain a viable bee?
- Can I check a leafcutter bee cocoon to see what stage of development my bees are at?
- Pesticides, garden chemicals and parasitoids - do they affect leafcutter bees?
- Do spider webs affect leafcutter bees?
- Will my leafcutter bees use my Leafcutter Bee House?
- My leafcutter bees have emerged, but little nesting activity has taken place. Why is this?
- Can re-emergence of second generation leafcutter bees occur within the same season?
When will my leafcutter bees emerge?
Leafcutter bees can emerge at any time during the summer months, though typically vary between early December through to early February. In some cases, there has been reports of leafcutter bees emerging as early as November and as late as March, and both scenarios are perfectly fine.
What is leafcutter bee emergence?
Leafcutter bee emergence is the final part of the bees’ development cycle where the leafcutter bee has reached full maturity. It’s at this stage, the leafcutter bee will start to chew its way out of its leafy cocoon and begin its own journey to reproduce and pollinate - as is their required purpose.
What triggers leafcutter bee emergence?
Emergence relies heavily on a consistent period of warm weather. In an artificial environment, 21 days of constant 28℃ temperatures will have bees emerging. However, in the real world, constant 28℃ temperatures for 21 days is unlikely - therefore with this in mind, emergence will typically take a while longer and will vary heavily between regions and the local weather patterns.
When will I see leafcutter bee activity?
Leafcutter bee activity will begin once the leafcutter bees start to venture from the Leafcutter Bee House. In the height of their activity, look out for the male leafcutter bees basking on the roof of their house, while the females will be flying in and out of the tunnels. Remember, it’s rare to see a swarm of these bees at any one time as they are solitary bees and do not require other bees to help navigate.
What is leafcutter bee activity?
Activity can be broken down into three distinct areas;
The first activity you’ll notice is the male leafcutter bees chewing their way through the cocoon and leaving the nesting house to forage/feed close by, all the time awaiting the emergence of female leafcutter bees to mate. The female leafcutter bees typically emerge a week or two later than the males.
The next activity you’ll notice is the females emerge and immediately start mating with awaiting males. Following this, the female leafcutter bee will spend around one week foraging before choosing a suitable nesting tunnel/site.
The final activity you will notice is the female leafcutter bees clearing out their chosen nesting tunnel/site of any debris. Following this, the female leafcutter bee will start to collect small oval shaped pieces of leaf/petal to construct the new generation of cocoons.
I’m not seeing any leafcutter bee activity, is this normal?
Leafcutter bee activity will vary based on geographic location and can be widely affected by the positioning of your Leafcutter Bee House and climatic conditions. Positioning your Leafcutter Bee House towards the morning sun will ensure the bees are warmed up early in the day, both aiding the incubation process and moving the bees along in their development cycle.
If your Leafcutter Bee House is not receiving a great deal of sun throughout the day, this will slow down the bees’ incubation process resulting in the bees requiring a greater amount of time to fully develop and mature.
Climatic conditions will also have an impact on leafcutter bee activity. Leafcutter bees require warm temperatures (generally 18℃ or above) before they will fly from the nesting house. Cool temperatures and rain will deter leafcutter bees from wanting to fly out of the nesting house, and in this instance the bees will remain idle until the warmer weather arrives.
Not all my leafcutter bee cocoons emerged this season . . . why is this?
This could be down to a number of possibilities. Firstly, a small percentage of leafcutter bee cocoons may contain no egg/larvae and only pollen and nectar. Secondly, other bee cocoons could become affected by a small parasitoid native to New Zealand, and finally temperature extremes. Prolonged low temperatures could significantly prevent the leafcutter bees from fully maturing, while too high a temperature could cause overheating of the cocoons and subsequently destroy the bees.
Does the weather have an effect on leafcutter bee emergence & activity?
Yes. Cool and rainy weather will certainly slow down leafcutter bee emergence, and prevent activity of active bees - therefore certain elements of the process remain firmly in the hands of mother nature.
Does the positioning of my Leafcutter Bee House affect emergence & activity?
Positioning of your Leafcutter Bee House could have an effect on leafcutter bee emergence and activity. Prolonged warmth is required for the leafcutter bee cocoons to develop and fully mature. By positioning your Leafcutter Bee House toward the morning sun, you gain the maximum amount of a bee activity throughout the day. Leafcutter bees are cold blooded and require gradual and consistent warmth to activate them through to flight.
How do I know if my leafcutter bees have emerged?
You can determine if your leafcutter bees have emerged by removing your nesting tray and checking to see if one end of the bee cocoon has an opening.
When will leafcutter bee activity slow down?
Leafcutter bee activity generally starts to slow down as we head in to autumn and the temperature starts to drop. This is a good time to harvest your Leafcutter bee cocoons for the following season, although more information will be distributed to all BeeGAP members in a subsequent BeeMAIL edition later this year.
Can I move my Leafcutter Bee House to a better position/location?
Yes, your Leafcutter Bee House can be moved to a better position/location. The best time of day to move a Leafcutter Bee House is in the evening when the temperatures are cooler and the bees are not active. It’s also favourable to move your Leafcutter Bee House during a period of dry weather to ensure bees sheltering from rain do not lose their nesting site when returning home.
What’s the difference between a male & female leafcutter bee?
Male leafcutter bees are slightly smaller than females and have a squared end to their abdomen. The male leafcutter bees generally emerge a week or two ahead of the females, and wait close by to mate with the later emerging females. Both males and females will pollinate, however only the females will nest and produce the next generation of leafcutter bee cocoons.
What is contained inside a leafcutter bee cocoon?
A leafcutter bee cocoon typically contains one egg and a provision of pollen and nectar. However, a very small percentage of cocoons may contain only pollen and nectar and therefore will not be viable bees.
Does every leafcutter bee cocoon contain a viable bee?
A small percentage of cocoons may not contain a viable bee. This could be due to many factors including; the female not laying an egg after provisioning the cocoon with pollen and nectar or a small native parasitoid entering the bee cocoon.
Can I check a leafcutter bee cocoon to see what stage of development my bees are at?
Yes. Checking your leafcutter bee cocoons to check what stage of development your bees are at involves selecting 2-3 cocoons and slicing (with a scalpel or sharp utility knife) the end off each cocoon and looking to see what stage the bee is at. The bee will either be a plump white grub - meaning the bee is still in the early stages of development, or resemble the look of a fully developed bee - meaning the bee is in the final stage of development. Please note this process may render the bees you’ve selected non-viable after cutting the ends of the cocoon, although it is worth keeping those cocoons in the house in the event they do continue to emerge.
Pesticides, garden chemicals and parasitoids - do they affect leafcutter bees?
Absolutely. Pesticides and garden chemicals can dramatically affect leafcutter bees (and many other bees and beneficial insects). Wherever possible, please avoid using them around or near to your Leafcutter Bee House, nesting bees and surrounding flowers. Pesticides and chemicals can kill both active bees and potentially render bee cocoons non-viable.
Do spider webs affect leafcutter bees?
Throughout the season, it is likely you may get a spider or two take up residence in your Leafcutter Bee House. While the spiders themselves do not pose a direct threat to the leafcutter bees, their webs can block entry tunnels - therefore it’s recommended to gently brush them away from time-to-time. Remember: DO NOT use any spider sprays or chemicals as they may have a devastating effect on your leafcutter bees.
Will my leafcutter bees use my Leafcutter Bee House?
Your Leafcutter Bee House has been designed with a nesting tray system containing the ideal sized nesting tunnel for leafcutter bees. Although the Leafcutter Bee House contains the ideal nesting environments, some bees may discover suitable nesting sites in other locations such as; small hollow plant stems, old nail holes in sheds, outbuildings and small cavities in trees and logs.
My leafcutter bees have emerged, but little nesting activity has taken place. Why is this?
Leafcutter bees can occasionally stray away from their Leafcutter Bee House when strong winds occur, briefly taking them away from their nesting site. Placing multiple nesting houses around your garden or property will increase the chances of leafcutter bees nesting close by and remaining residential in your garden. Spider webs, birds, chemicals and pesticides are also a few other reasons why emerged leafcutter bees may not return throughout the season.
Can re-emergence of second generation leafcutter bees occur within the same season?
Yes, this is possible. A second generation of leafcutter bees can occur within one season, generally taking place when early emergence of the first generation occurs and the weather remains warm for a prolonged period of time. Second generation bees tend to be slightly smaller, and have a greater tendency to migrate away from the nesting house. Do not fear if this happens as the leafcutter bees may then return back the following season as they are aware of a safe habitat to continue nesting.