Texas leaf-cutter bee

(Megachile texana)

Conservation Status
Texas leaf-cutter bee
Photo by Norm & Peg Dibble
  IUCN Red List

not listed

     
  NatureServe

NNR - Unranked

SNR - Unranked

     
  Minnesota

not listed

     
           
           
 
Description
 
 

Texas leaf-cutter bee is a chunky-looking, moderate-sized, solitary, leaf-cutting bee. It is common and widespread across the United States, in adjacent Canadian provinces, and in Mexico. It is uncommon, or at least little reported, in Minnesota.

Females are robust and 7 16 to 9 16 (11 to 14 mm) long. The head is matte black. There are two large compound eyes, one on each side of the head; and three small simple eyes (ocelli) in a triangular pattern at the top of the head between the compound eyes. The area behind and below each compound eye (gena) is narrower than the compound eye. The sides of the face (paraocular area) and the area at the base of the antennae are densely covered with short whitish hairs. The gena is also covered with whitish hairs, dense and short at the bottom, becoming sparser and shorter toward the top. The top of the head (vertex) is covered with black hairs. The mandibles have 4 teeth and are very large, sometimes described as “enormous”. The large size allows them to be used for chewing leaves, gnawing wood, and moving small stones. The tongue is long and slender. The antennae are thread-like and are not elbowed. They have 12 segments.

The thorax (mesosoma) has three segments. However, the first segment of the abdomen is fused to the thorax, giving the thorax the appearance of having four segments. The upper side of the thorax is matte black and densely pitted. It is covered with short, whitish hairs at the front and sides, black hairs on most of the middle, and some whitish hairs at the rear. The small plate covering the base of each forewing (tegula) is black.

The abdomen is matte black and densely and finely pitted. There are six hardened plates (tergites) on the upper (dorsal) portion of the abdomen. The second through fifth tergites (T2 through T5) have a narrow, very dense fringe of short, whitish, rear-facing hairs, giving the abdomen a narrowly striped appearance. T1 is similar but mostly pale and some black hairs. T6 is distinctly concave when viewed from the side. The underside of the abdomen is densely covered with long, branched, electrostatically charged hairs (scopa) used for collecting pollen. On the female, the scopa are entirely yellowish-white on segments 2 through 4, yellowish-white at the base with black tips on segment 5, and entirely black on segment 6.

The wings are semitransparent and have black veins. The broad lobe at the base of the hindwing (jugal lobe) is shorter than the narrow lobe adjacent to it (submedian lobe).

The legs are black. Unlike most bees, there are no scopa on the hind legs. The last part of the leg (tarsus), beyond the fourth segment (tibia) and corresponding to the foot, has three sections. On the middle and hind legs the first section (basitarsus) is nearly as long and broad as the tibia.

Males are a little smaller than females, to ½ (10 to 12 mm) long. The mandibles have only 3 teeth. The hairs on the lower part of the gena are snowy-white, longer, and more abundant than on the female. The fringe of whitish hairs on T1 through T5 is dense at the sides, becoming shorter, sparser, and interrupted in the middle. The basitarsus on all legs is slender and shorter than the tibia.

 
     
 

Size

 
 

Male: to ½ (10 to 12 mm)

Female: 7 16 to 9 16 (11 to 14 mm)

 
     
 

Similar Species

 
     
     
 
Habitat
 
 

 

 
     
 
Biology
 
 

Season

 
 

 

 
     
 

Behavior

 
 

 

 
     
 

Life Cycle

 
 

Texas leaf-cutter bee is a solitary bee. It does not nest in hives. The female builds a tubular nest, usually in an existing crevice, often near other nests but never sharing an entrance. She cuts circular disks of leaves, about 1 in diameter, placing about 15 of them at the bottom of the first cell. She then provisions the cell with pollen and regurgitated nectar, and lays a single egg. She then seals the cell with more leaf disks. She continues this process until she has laid 18 to 25 or more eggs. The larvae undergo four instar stages. Some will emerge as adults later in the summer. Others will enter a pre-pupal, hibernation-like phase (diapause), overwinter, pupate in the spring, and emerge as adults the following summer.

 
     
 

Larva Food

 
 

Flower nectar and pollen

 
     
 

Adult Food

 
 

Texas leaf-cutter bee is a food generalist. It eats pollen and nectar from more than 80 different species of plants.

 
     
 
Distribution
 
 

Distribution Map

 

Sources

24, 27, 29, 30.

 
  8/21/2019      
         
 

Occurrence

 
 

Uncommon in Minnesota

 
         
 
Taxonomy
 
 

Order

Hymenoptera (ants, bees, wasps, and sawflies)  
 

Suborder

Apocrita (wasps, ants and bees)  
 

Infraorder

Aculeata (ants, bees and stinging wasps)  
  Clade Anthophila  
 

Superfamily

Apoidea (apoid wasps, bees, sphecoid wasps)  
 

Family

Megachilidae (leaf-cutter bees, mason bees, and allies)  
 

Subfamily

Megachilinae  
 

Tribe

Megachilini  
 

Genus

Megachile (leaf-cutter and resin bees)  
  Subgenus Litomegachile  
       
 

The genus name Megachile means “large lipped”, and refers to the very large mandibles.

 
       
 

Synonyms

 
 

Megachile cleomis

Megachile generosa

Megachile pruinosa

Megachile schismatura

Megachile vernonensis

 
       
 

Common Names

 
 

Texas leaf-cutter bee

Texas leafcutter bee

 
       

 

 

 

 

 

Glossary

Gena

In insects, the area behind and below the compound eye. In birds, the feathered side (outside) of the under mandible; the area between the the angle of the jaw and the bill.

 

Diapause

A period of decreased metabolic activity and suspended development.

 

Ocellus

Simple eye; an eye with a single lens. Plural: ocelli.

 

Scopa

A brush-like tuft of hairs on the legs or underside of the abdomen of a bee used to collect pollen.

 

Tarsus

The last two to five subdivisions of an insect’s leg, attached to the tibia; the foot. Plural: tarsi.

 

Tegula

A small, hardened, plate, scale, or flap-like structure that overlaps the base of the forewing of insects in the orders Lepidoptera, Hymenoptera, Diptera, and Homoptera. Plural: tegulae.

 

Tergum; tergite

The upper (dorsal), hardened plate on a segment of the thorax or abdomen of an arthropod. Plural: terga.

 

Tibia

The fourth segment of an insect leg, after the femur and before the tarsus (foot). The fifth segment of a spider leg or palp.

 

Vertex

The upper surface of an insect’s head.

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
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Norm & Peg Dibble

 
 

On 08/3/2019 there were several types of bees or wasps on our large bush of Swamp Milkweed. This very small black and white striped bee (unfamiliar to me) was very difficult to photograph. He was moving constantly and too small for the camera to focus before he was off to another flower cluster, but here are two of the best shots I got. One shows his body stripes well and the other shows his head and eye better.

  Texas leaf-cutter bee  
           
        Texas leaf-cutter bee  
           
  I went back out this afternoon to find the white bee again and it was there along with many others and one Monarch. It was difficult to get the bee photo from head on.   Texas leaf-cutter bee  
           
    Texas leaf-cutter bee   Texas leaf-cutter bee  
           
    Texas leaf-cutter bee      
           
 
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Megachile texana
USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab
  Megachile texana  
     

 

slideshow

       
 
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  Norm & Peg Dibble
8/8/2019

Location: Maple Grove, MN

I went back out this afternoon to find the white bee again and it was there along with many others and one Monarch. It was difficult to get the bee photo from head on.

Texas leaf-cutter bee  
  Norm & Peg Dibble
8/3/2019

Location: Maple Grove, MN

On 08/3/2019 there were several types of bees or wasps on our large bush of Swamp Milkweed. This very small black and white striped bee (unfamiliar to me) was very difficult to photograph. He was moving constantly and too small for the camera to focus before he was off to another flower cluster, but here are two of the best shots I got. One shows his body stripes well and the other shows his head and eye better.

Texas leaf-cutter bee  
           
 
MinnesotaSeasons.com Sightings
 
 

 

 

 

 

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Created: 8/21/2019

Last Updated:

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