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Megachile macularis (Family Megachilidae)



All states, including inland areas. This is one of the most common leafcutter species. (NSW, VIC, SA, WA, NT, QLD)


Females and males are black, except for the male fore legs. Dense white hair on the face, longer white hair on the sides and underside of the mesosoma. The area between the wings (the dorsal surface of the mesosoma) has two spots of white hairs at the front, one at the base of each wing and two linear patches close to the back, they are often worn away in older bees, recognised by their ragged wings. The metasoma has a patch of white hairs at each side of the first segment and a white fringe on each segment, the tip has very short white hairs and longer sparse black bristles.

Females are about 12 mm long, with a white scopa. Males are about 9 mm long, The tip of the metasoma has two small teeth. Males are easily recognised by their front legs (fore legs). The lower half is flattened and expanded, creamy white and patterned with spots on the inner surface. Males of several leafcutter species have this type of fore leg, the shape and pattern is characteristic for each species. Note: white hair can be stained yellow by pollen and nectar. See Image for left lower fore leg of male M. macularis, inner surface.

Ecology/Way of Life:

Megachile macularis females, like other leafcutter bees, cut pieces of leaves or petals for nesting material, their mandibles function like scissors. Pieces are cut individually, folded between the legs and carried back to the nest site. They are moulded into a thimble-shaped cell using oval pieces for the base and sides. Each cell is stocked with pollen/nectar paste, an egg is laid and the cell is closed using round pieces. Cells are placed one behind the other in long, narrow cavities, such as borer holes in timber, or hollow twigs or stems or holes in soil. Nests have also been collected from brickwork behind pipes, in orchid pots, in electrical conduit and in trap nests.

Nesting material: soft pliable leaves such as Bauhinia, rose leaves and petals, honeysuckle, Pongamia.

Pollen sources: many species including Eucalyptus, Atalaya, Melaleuca, Angophora, Persoonia, Jacksoni, Crotolaria and Eremophila.

Preferred Image

Interaction with Humans/Threats:

They are important pollinators of native plants. They can be a minor pest in gardens when nest-building.

Other Comments:

Megachile macularis (genus named by Latreille 1802, based on Greek mega = large and cheilos = lip: species named maculata by Smith 1853, preoccupied; renamed macularis by Dalla Torre 1896 based on Latin macula = spot.)

This species belongs to the bee family Megachilidae. Megachilid bees are solitary, ie. each female builds and provisions her own nests, there is no cooperation with other females. Females transport pollen in a scopa (a patch of hairs modified to carry pollen) on the underside of the metasoma, this feature is unique to megachilids. There are a few parasitic megachilids which lay their eggs in other bees' nests. In Australia the family can be divided into three groups based on their nesting habits: leafcutter bees, resin bees and wood-boring bees.

Further Reading:

Michener, C.D. (2000) Bees of the World. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore. 914pp.




Text and images supplied by Dr Glynn Maynard.

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Images and Multi-media:  
Attached Image  
image/jpeg 4273 bytes Megachile macularis (female)
Attached Image  
image/jpeg 13076 bytes Megachile macularis (male)
Attached Image  
image/jpeg 2434 bytes Megachile macularis (Single cell constructed from leaf pieces)
Attached Image  
image/jpeg 92378 bytes Megachile macularis (Left lower fore leg of male, inner surface)
Attached Image  
image/jpeg 12171 bytes Native ginger, leafcutter bees have been collecting nesting material.
Attached Image  
image/gif 37313 bytes Megachile macularis (female)
Distribution Map  
image/gif 10087 bytes Distribution of Megachile macularis

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