Back garden, St Ives, 28 May 2020

It’s amazing what you can see right under your nose if you take the trouble to look. Especially when you are in confinement with all this lovely weather. In fact, I recommend a sit down with a cuppa outside at least once a day to just gaze around. This time my eye was caught by a leaf pattern I did not recognize. I remembered it as a wisteria but now I wasn’t so sure.

Chewed leaves Leaf-cutter bee

Photographs © Ian Jackson (left) and Warren Photographic (right)

Each leaf had a semi-circle missing, sometimes two. Was it some weird disease? I recalled the same thing happening last year but on a rose. Half-way through my cuppa the culprit was revealed. An insect took off with something held between its legs, a bit like a miniature rolled up carpet – a Leaf-cutter Bee! A quick bit of research explained everything. We have seven Megachile species that do this. They are all solitary and it is the female that neatly snips the leaf semi-circles and takes them back to the nest to construct a cell. Each cell contains an egg and a store of food (nectar and pollen) and is capped. The larva that hatches then has a pretty good start. The best news is that although the bee favours fresh young leaves the plants are not harmed – and that’s from the RHS!

Trustee: Ian Jackson