Updated: 1st March 2021
Megachile leachella - the UK’s smallest leafcutter bee, the
male has distinctive green eyes, and this species can be found in sandy habitats,
especially coastal dunes and coastal brownfield sites.
Taxonomists regularly review families, genera and species of bee species (as well as other life-forms). As a result, there are sometimes proposals to change the accepted nomenclature associated with some species.
This species was formerly known as Megachile dorsalis before being changed to Megachile leachella (the UK Bees, Wasps and Ants Recording Society implemented the change December 2012).
It was a warm, sunny day when I photographed this beautiful male silvery leafcutter bee during a visit to a nearby Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). This coastal area consists of an ecologically diverse sand dune system, with a wonderful floral abundance, and many bees can be seen foraging on the rich variety of wildflowers, shrubs and trees.
This photograph was taken on a sandy spot, close to the entrance of a rabbit burrow – evidence for this being the burrow itself, and rabbit droppings by the entrance. On this particular visit, I was not fortunate enough to snap a photograph of a female, but anyway, taking a picture of this little fellow was already a challenge: focusing my camera on this very small bee before it took off, wasn't easy with my small camera.
The silvery leafcutter bee is the
smallest of the UK leafcutter bees, with a length of about 5 – 7 mm.
As you can see from the photograph, the eyes of this male are green, but females have dark eyes.
The female has a silvery pollen brush on the underside of her abdomen.
These bees are active from end of May to early September (these photographs taken in
The coastal SSSI where I was able to take this photograph, is ideal for the silvery leafcutter bee. Nesting takes place in sandy ground, and in aggregations, which can be quite large. Apparently, they prefer sandy ground with non-compacted sand and fine plant roots. Leafcutter bees cut segments of leaf with which they build their nest cells. This species uses leaves and also sometimes petals of the bird’s foot trefoil plant in the construction of its nest. The nest and cells are constructed by the females.
site offers wonderful foraging opportunities for Megachile leachella: large swathes of bird’s foot trefoil and
clover are present.
They will also enjoy foraging on the beautiful restharrow which can be found creeping among the grasses (also a favourite with bumble bees).
There is also an abundance of ragworts and brambles.
I shall be back at some point to see if I can capture a photograph of the female, and who knows, perhaps I will locate the actual nest sites.
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