It was with considerable dismay that I read a section on Leafcutter bees contained in your article on page 41 of the Royal Horticultural Society magazine “The Garden” June 2017 entitled “Which pest is on my roses?”
Under no circumstances should leafcutter bees be classified as “pests” in a garden and should not be listed alongside aphids, sawflies and scurfy rose scale! Admittedly, within the paragraph about the bees, you stressed that they are important pollinating insects and “should be encouraged (Yes. Hoooray!) or at least tolerated (No. Totally negative!)” But I’m afraid the damage is done by even including the activities of the leafcutters under the general heading of “pests”.
My dismay was slightly tempered when I reached page 122 and read a positive description of the work of the leafcutters in Jean Vernon’s Wildlife column.
Perhaps you have never observed, with complete admiration, as I have a female leafcutter bee hard at work flying backwards and forwards to her nest ( in a bamboo tube in a bee hotel for example) carrying rolled up pieces of rose leaf to perfectly line the bamboo tube in which she lays her eggs. And finally cutting a circle of almost perfect diameter to plug the entrance hole at the front. Watch her flying head first into the tube with pollen to supply each cell and then reversing in to lay her egg before flying off for more supplies of rose leaves and pollen for the next cell. It is absolutely fascinating to watch.
These tiny insects are one of the wonders of nature and deserve our total respect. They have been on this earth for millions of years. Count yourself lucky if you find holes in your rose leaves. It means you have a healthy, thriving family of leafcutter bees somewhere nearby, indicating that your garden is well on its way to being wildlife friendly.
Secretary, Bee Friendly Monmouthshire
Reply from “The Garden” magazine:
Thank you for your concern about including the leaf-cutter bee in the June edition of The Garden under rose pests. The primary reason for including the insect in this article was because the RHS Garden Advice service regularly receives enquiries about the characteristic leaf holes caused by these useful insects (in roses and other plants). Whilst these insects should not be considered pests it is the enquirer who asks ‘what pest has caused the damage?’. Therefore it was important to include this insect under the pests section in order to inform gardeners what causes the leaf holes and that it is a useful pollinator that should be tolerated, some gardeners still consider the damage unsightly even with this information. If it had not been included in this item many gardeners may still have considered the damage to be due to a pest and swatted the bee, occasionally we receive the squashed bees in the post.
You may be interested to read our advisory profile on leaf cutter-bees https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/profile?PID=829
You may also be interested in this year’s RHS/Wildlife trusts Wild about Gardens campaign which is focused on wild bees, of which the leafcutters are a featured species http://wildaboutgardens.org.uk/