Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Creation Close-Ups : Leaf Cutter Bees

Leafcutter bees are amazing creatures that testify to God's handiwork! 



Thou, even thou, art LORD alone; thou hast made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth, and all things that are therein, the seas, and all that is therein, and thou preservest them all; and the host of heaven worshippeth thee.
Nehemiah 9:6

Here are some interesting facts about leafcutter bees:

 > Leafcutter bees are solitary bees, which means they do not live in colonies with other bees.

> Leafcutter bees are very docile and only sting when directly handled.

> Leafcutter bees are important pollinators. According to research certain species of leafcutter         bees can do 20 times more pollinating than honey bees!

>  Leafcutter bees do not make honey.

>  Leafcutter bees nest in tubular shaped cavities 


Life Cycle:
Leafcutter bee eggs are laid in tube shaped compartments constructed from leaves by a female leafcutter bee. The female leafcutter bees are able to lay fertilized and unfertilized eggs. Unfertilized eggs grow into male leafcutter bees. Male leafcutter bees have 16 chromosomes and females have 32 chromosomes. An egg will get 16 chromosomes from the female and if it is fertilized it will get 16 chromosomes from the male. Unfertilized eggs are laid at the end closest to the outside of a leaf nest. This means that the males are the first to emerge from the nest. They are ready and waiting to mate with the females once the females emerge from the nest.
  What an amazing design!

Female leafcutter bees do a lot of hard work! They must build the leaf nest, stock it with food for the eggs, and lay eggs! The female leafcutter bee will search for a good location to build her nest. She uses hallow, tube shaped openings in old plant stems, tree bark, even tunnels in the soil, and many man-made objects including leafcutter bee houses made specifically for leafcutter bees.

Once the female finds a good location for a nest she will collect leaves to construct the nest cavities. She first cuts several circle shaped leaves the same diameter as the tube and places them in the back of the tunnel. Then she cuts oval shaped pieces of leaves to make a capsule to lay her egg in. Leafcutter bees will also use flower petals to line their nest with sometimes.

 She then sets to gathering food to put in the capsule for her baby to eat as it develops. She collects nectar and pollen from flowers. The nectar she drinks from the flowers with her proboscis and the pollen she collects on her legs and on the hairs on her abdomen. She flies back to the nest and spits out the nectar and brushes the pollen off of her body. Then she mixes the pollen and nectar together. She has to gather more than one load of pollen and nectar.  Each subsequent load has more nectar and less pollen until the last load which is just nectar. This ensures that the egg, once hatched, will have the right diet for each stage of growth.
Again, I am amazed at this perfect design!

Once all of the food is gathered the female leafcutter bee will lay an egg into the nectar. She then goes to cut some more circle shaped leaf pieces to close up the compartment and begin a new compartment.

A female leaf cutter bee will complete one cell a day, on average, depending on weather and available resources. 

The eggs will hatch shortly after they are laid and the larva will begin to grow. They will go through a few stages as they develop. How quickly they develop depends on their temperature. It is possible for an egg to develop quickly enough to be able to emerge later on during that same summer if it was laid early enough in the summer. But, in most cases the fully developed pupa will over-winter in the leaf capsule and emerge in the spring. The next generation of leafcutter bees will start the life cycle all over again, knowing instinctively how to play their part.

Leafcutter Bees Used In Agriculture:

Leafcutter bees are used in agriculture as pollinators. Leafcutter bee are less efficient at gathering pollen and nectar than honey bees. This means they have to make many more trips than the honey bee to gather the same amount of pollen. Therefore, they end up visiting and pollinating many more flowers. Leafcutter bees are also easy to house and manage, making them an ideal pollinator for farmers to use. Leafcutter bees are most widely used for pollinating alfalfa crops and wild blueberry crops.

Among the gods there is none like unto thee, O Lord; neither are there any works like unto thy works.
 All nations whom thou hast made shall come and worship before thee, O Lord; and shall glorify thy name.
 For thou art great, and doest wondrous things: thou art God alone.
Psalms 86: 8-10 





Anonymous said...

Glory to God! The verses and pictures are beautiful. What an amazing Creator we have!

Southern Sunrise said...

What a neat post! I found this very interesting, and so amazing how God created them with such a unique way of building their nests. Thanks for sharing this with us! :)

Sister in the Mid-west said...

Hello anonymous,
We most definitely do serve an amazing Creator! Thank you for your comment.

Sister in the Mid-west said...

Hello Southern Sunrise,
I also found learning about these bees to be very interesting. They are quite unique. I can't help but to see God's wisdom in his creation. Thank you for the comment.

A Heart of Praise said...

I enjoyed reading this post. I have learned a lot about leaf cutter bees from Graham and his dad since they had them to pollinate their alfalfa. It was neat to see the whole operation a few years ago before we sold the farm in Davidson and moved to our current location.