Saturday, May 9, 2020

Leaf Cutter Bees and Cimate Change

Yesterday afternoon we ended up going grocery shopping.  The plan had been to go early Monday, but since Jim has a dentist appointment, and the left side of the garage is blocked by a construction trailer, that plan was off the table.  So we masked up and went to Fry's.  I'd say there was about 50% compliance with wearing masks.  People still do not comprehend 6 feet of separation, especially in the produce department.  If I get Covid-19, it probably happened in the squash area.  There was no toilet paper, and the meat supply was grim.  Produce was good, frozen food was good.

In the car I googled on "what's eating my bougainvillea?"  Turns out it's a leaf cutter bee.  I had no idea such a thing existed.  They are super pollinators, way better than honey bees.  Leaf cutters don't make honey and they don't live in hives, they are solitary bees.  They build nests for their offspring out of leaves either in the ground or rotten trees.  They're very picky about their leaves, they like hostas, roses, and lilacs; they also like bougainvilleas.  There is a good write up here.
Leafcutter bees don’t sting. Leafcutter bees don’t need mud like mason Bees, but Leafcutter bees do need leaves and temperature of 75-100 degrees F to pollinate. If you are in a warm climate and have sand instead of mud-Leafcutter bees are your ticket.
A single female Leafcutter Bee visits 100,000+ blossoms per day whereas a honey bee visits 50-1000. Leaf Cutter bees pollinate 100% more effectively and efficiently than honey bees.
You can buy their cocoons, they're good for summer vegetable pollination.

This is a leaf cutter carrying her piece of leaf back to her nest.

Notice the curved cuts out of the leaves and the flowers.  They're on the left about mid photo.  As we were standing there, I noticed two bees flying around the plant.  One landed on a flower, cut the piece out and flew across the street with it.  When they're carrying a bright pink load, they're easy to see.  The internet says they won't devastate the plant like looper caterpillars will, so we're going to leave her alone.  It's kind of cool watching her make the cut.  It's really fast and then she's gone.

Do you ever start a large project late in the day when you know full well you should just leave it?  We did that yesterday after the store.  The palm trees are making a lot of brown fronds, they're depressing to look at, so we got the chainsaw on a stick out at pruned them.  If you look, you can see that there is one green one in there.  I felt bad about that.  We cut the barbed branches off and boxed them.  Jim got one stuck in his arm (literally) and I got one in the leg.  They really hurt.  Next step was to start bagging the non-lethal fronds, but we left that for the next day.

The roof guys came today and were kind enough to throw the fronds in their trailer, so we're done!  Pretty cool.

There was sunset last night.  It's trying to rain, so there have been clouds.  So far all it has done is make it humid.

Propublica has written an article about how climate change will exacerbate the number of new viruses people will have to deal with.  Declining habitat and increased temperatures and going to make things bad for the humans.  Below is an excerpt.   It's a really good read, and may keep you up at night.
Scientists have not suggested that climate played any direct role in causing the current COVID-19 outbreak. Though the virus is believed to have originated with the horseshoe bat, part of a genus that’s been roaming the forests of the planet for 40 million years and thrives in the remote jungles of south China, even that remains uncertain.
Scientists have, however, been studying the coronaviruses of southern China for years and warning that swift climate and environmental change there — in both loss of biodiversity and encroachment by civilization — was going to help new viruses jump to people.
There are three ways climate influences emerging diseases. Roughly 60% of new pathogens come from animals — including those pressured by diversity loss — and roughly one-third of those can be directly attributed to changes in human land use, meaning deforestation, the introduction of farming, development or resource extraction in otherwise natural settings. Vector-borne diseases — those carried by insects like mosquitoes and ticks and transferred in the blood of infected people — are also on the rise as warming weather and erratic precipitation vastly expand the geographic regions vulnerable to contagion. Climate is even bringing old viruses back from the dead, thawing zombie contagions like the anthrax released from a frozen reindeer in 2016, which can come down from the arctic and haunt us from the past.
I have done something bad to my right arm.  The three possibilities are the rowing machine, the bike, or excessive computer use.  If it was rowing or biking, I would expect both arms to hurt.  Therefore, I blame the laptop.  I'm going to try to take a break from so much mousing and see if the swelling goes down.  It is really painful.  So if I don't fire off the daily missive, that's why.


  1. I'm trying to figure out how not to worry about all the things that are wrong on our earth and I'm flunking. Good luck with your arm.

  2. Those leaf-cutter bees are pretty cool. I'm glad you're going to leave them alone. Sometimes bugs make plants a little less visually perfect but it's worth it to have the bugs around! As for climate change and viruses, I have no doubt the planet will come up with some way to fight our "infestation."

  3. Amazing those little bees can carry such a load. That's a cool picture. I have the same problem with the palm tree in my back yard. They have spines that are sharp as a needle!!

  4. people here are not wearing masks for the most part. partially because I think there have been only 41 (known) cases and no deaths in our county. we'll see what happens in a couple of weeks after everything is open. I went to the library Friday which reopened last Monday. I was the only patron and I was wearing a mask as was the librarian which she put on when I entered. they also plastic shields up around the desk. climate change is making it a whole new world. could even be the extinction event for humans.

    leaf cutter bees also like red bud tree leaves.

  5. Living in a predominantly red city we see about 50% use of masks. Seems like such a simple thing to do that will save lives and allow us to go about our business in the new's a shame there are so many selfish and ignorant people out there.

  6. If declining habitat for people and for animals is the cause, there is no hope. How do we stop the burning of the Amazon?
    If your arm problem is caused by using the computer, perhaps I have a solution you may not like. I had the same problem with my left arm, which is dominant, though I am right handed. The cause is arthritis in the base of my thumb that exacerbates carpel tunnel. Eventually the carpel tunnel pain radiated up my arm, through my elbow, and my shoulder, including my beautiful reverse shoulder replacement. Eventually I explained this to my pain doctor, and he injected the base of my thumb with cortisone. It's been several months, and the pain is gone. It subsided as gradually as it began; I've almost forgot the entire episode.

  7. I'd heard of and seen leaf-cutter ants (very common in Belize) but not the bees. Surprising we didn't have them in the Yucatan with all the bougainvilleas and sand, but I don't recall seeing any damage like that. We did have a variety of other types of bees and wasps. Thanks for letting this one live. Good luck with your arm; that does not sound pleasant! Much higher mask compliance here in the blue counties of Orange and Durham, NC. I'd say 95% at the farmer's market yesterday and 100% at Aldi this morning. There are some real wingnuts here in NC protesting the governor's stay at home mandate in camoflauge and carrying their massive guns, but they must not live in Durham or Orange county...yay!

  8. I get leaf cutter bees on my roses. I just leave them alone - the rose doesn't seem to mind and neither do I.

  9. Take care of that arm. I read that there is a vector borne dengue fever outbreak in the tropical parts of the world, but the covid news is swamping it. My mom had dengue once, in her later years. It was awful, fevers, hallucinations, chills, sweats. But people mostly live, so that's good.