If you want to attract insects to your garden, plant an artichoke and let it flower.
You'll get honey bees, syrphid flies, butterflies, carpenter bees and leafcutter bees. (And well, a few predators, such as spiders and wasps.)
Today we saw leafcutter bees (Megachile spp.) tumbling in the purple strands, looking so much like residents of a gated community. A purple gated community.
These native bees, so named because they cut fragments from leaves and bring them back to line their nests, are excellent pollinators. They nest in our bee condo, just inches away from the artichoke plants.
Then we saw a male cuckoo leafcutting bee (below), genus Coelioxys, as identified by native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis. "The females hide their eggs between the leaves in Megachile nests and their larvae kill the host egg or larva and complete their development on the pollen provided by the host female," he said.
With Megachile, if you provide a bee condo (a wood block drilled with holes), you may see these tiny insects provisioning their nests. (See the list of resources provided by Thorp, on the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility website.
All in all, leafcutter bees are a star attraction for National Pollinator Week, which began Monday, June 18 and continues through Sunday, June 24.
Male cuckoo leafcutting bee (genus Coelioxys) emerges from the purple strands of an artichoke blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Male cuckoo leafcutting bee (genus Coelioxys) walking on an artichoke blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)