Has Your Yard Been Visited by the Leaf Cutter Bee?

Leaf cutter bee damage on a leaf
Leaf cutter bee damage on a leaf

The leaf cutter bee is about the size of a common honeybee with light bands of color on its abdomen. It is not aggressive and has a mild sting if handled. The bee lives in small colonies and inflicts the most damage during the warmer months by making a distinctive neat, semicircular cut about three-quarters of an inch into the edge of plant leaves.

Most of the damage is cosmetic. The insect prefers bougainvillea, roses, azaleas, ash trees, and other ornamentals with smooth leaves, which it uses to build its nests. The female bee does most of the work by creating a nest to feed her young, and produces up to forty eggs in a two-month period.

The insect is important to the ecosystem and helps in the pollination and production of flowers and fruit. Insecticides are not effective. For control, place cheesecloth, loose netting or other physical barriers over plants.


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