Alfalfa seed growers employ leafcutter bees to profitably pollinate their crops by putting shelter houses with nesting boxes throughout the field in rows. The shelters’ entrances face southeast to avoid the west winds and to receive the warmth of the morning sun.
Each nesting box has countless tunnels, where after mating, the female lays about 40 eggs. Unlike honeybees, female leafcutter bees are solitary, which means they each care for their own offspring. She has a lifespan of around two months, all the while pollinating the field and caring for her larvae.
Leafcutter bees nest close together and don’t fly any farther than necessary for nectar, making it easier for growers to confi ne them to each field.
After the field is pollinated, the house shelters are moved to other locations, and the process of preparing the cocoons for overwintering in cold storage begins.
As well as being a lifesaver to the alfalfa seed industry, leafcutter bees are used as wild blueberry pollinators.
– Lillian Deedman writes from Killarney, Manitoba