A surprise package
Some of the most interesting things happen in our beautiful wildlife gardens when we least expect them. On this particular day my brother and mom were moving some bricks to build a new flower bed. My mom found this odd-looking thing filling the gap between two bricks. On closer inspection we realized it was made from pieces of clover leaves wrapped together. Well, we can’t resist a mystery so we took it into the house and gently removed the leaves one at a time to see what they were concealing.
A micro nursery
Once we peeled away the outside layer we discovered several individual chambers stacked end-to-end. Each one contained a layer of pollen pressed tightly on the bottom with a single egg poking out the top. Obviously we were dealing with some sort of bee. Research showed that we had discovered the nest of a leaf-cutter bee, and that the pollen is mixed with nectar by the momma bee to make the food supply for the developing larvae. It’s amazing that each perfect little cell is made solely from circular bits of leaves.
A few days later the egg in each chamber hatched and the larvae emerged.
Each of the “bee babies” had plenty of food to eat and reached maturity with some pollen mush left over. It’s hard to believe by looking at them in this stage of development that they will soon become bees.
It was amazing to watch their transformation. The eyes were the first features to become noticeable.
The legs and antennae were next to take shape.
And the wings were the last features to form.
The resulting bee is so tiny!
For years I have wondered what sort of creature was making these round cut-outs in my plants. I’ve never once caught them in the act. But at least I know whenever I see these tell-tale signs, my yard is supporting the life cycle of such an important pollinator as the amazing leaf-cutter bee.
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