Native bee spotting out of season

Just when you thought you were safe from native bee updates from me ('cause they aren't out and about this time of year), Ralph made a discovery. Yup, he spotted a native bee home! He saw it after cutting through a sleeper. Would this attract your attention?

Previously, I spotted what I thought were native leafcutter bees in our garden in summer. Here's a pic, and a short video (16 seconds) to show their size relative to a honeybee.

Video: Leafcutter native bee and honeybee on melon flower

The leafcutter bees here were particularly interested in the rockmelon flowers, but were also seen visiting several other plants. Somewhat intriguingly, there was no sign in our garden of their 'leaf-cutting' behaviour, where they cut circles from leaves with which to build their nests. They particularly like rose and buddleia leaves apparently. I'm sure I'm in the minority when looking for the tell-tale "circular cut out" from a leaf that would indicate their activity. For many gardeners, a hole out of a favorite plant leaf means a "pest" not a positive.

Back to Build-It Bloke's find ... the hole in the sleeper was quite big (the diameter varies between 1cm and 3cm), and within it there were three leaf 'tunnels'. The bees carry the leaf cut-outs to the nest and form them into a sort of cigar-like outer shell. They have a diameter of about half a centimetre. See the photo below. Inside them the bee lays their eggs and leaves a pollen patty as food for their young (larva) to eat. Two 'tunnels' inside this sleeper were empty, but one was still closed ... we'll be watching to see if any leafcutter bees emerge when the weather warms up.

The wonderful folks at Wirraminna Environmental Education Centre at Burrumbuttock are hosting "the Birds and the Bees" - a biodiversity themed event on Sunday August 26th. If you'd like to hear from some experts (Dave Watson of Charles Sturt Uni and Lou Bull, landscape designer and permaculture teacher at the National Environment Centre) as well as an enthusiast (me!), please check out the stunning flyer below and consider coming along.