Leafcutter Bees

Notches on leaf edges caused by leafcutter bees

By: Sandy Feather 2014
Penn State Extension

Q. Something is taking big bites out of edges of the leaves of my redbud tree. I never see insects on the leaves, just the damage. Do you have any idea what is causing this problem?

A. These native pollinators are known as leafcutter bees (Megachile species). These insects take circular bites out of the margins of the leaves of a number of plants, including redbud trees (Cercis canadensis), roses, sugar maples (Acer saccharum) and even vegetables such as sweet peppers (Capsicum annuum). They use the pieces of leaves to line their egg cells.

Redbud blossoms
Redbud in full blossom

Leafcutter bees are solitary bees that nest and rear their young alone, unlike social bees such as honeybees. They build their egg cells in hollowed-out twigs, soft and rotten wood, or thick-stemmed pithy plants.


The damage they cause is strictly cosmetic and does not harm the plant. They are not aggressive and pose no threat to you or your family. Leafcutter bees are pollinators and should be considered beneficial. No control measures are recommended. If you watch the tree closely, you should be able to see them at work. They clutch a piece of leaf with their legs, and fly off with it when they chew it free.


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