Monday, November 5, 2012

The Phantom Chomper

Time and again when I spot a little wonder in the garden I say to Mother Nature "Love Your Work" and today we're handing out extra praise for her very neat work. See Exhibit A below, Your Honour.

How's that for a neat semi-circle chomped from this leaf?

The plant suffering this nibbling isn't all that
bothered by the chomping. It's a baby Norfolk
Island passionfruit seedling, and when it grows
up it's going to cover a whole brick wall and
(hopefully) produce more passionfruit than
my passionfruit-loving Pammy can ever eat.

Lots of leaves are affected but the rate of growth of the
passionfruit is pretty rapid, given it has been in 
the ground
only three weeks, and all leaves are a lush green.

I had a suspicion who might be the mystery
chomper, but as I had never had leaves here
nibbled in this way before, I was prepared to be
surprised to discover it was something weird.
So it was out with my Backyard Bible, this
wonderful book by Judy McMaugh.

It turned out it was who I thought it might be, a leafcutter bee.
The good news is "Control not necessary". That is, let the
poor little nest builder nibble a few leaves, for goodness sake!
As the book says, the bees take the semi-circular 10mm
pieces of leaf "to make nests, which are cigar-shaped and
in situations such as cracks in fence posts or between two
bricks where the mortar has fallen out." Given the passionfruit's
mission in my garden is to cover the enormous, ugly brick wall
at the base of which it has been planted, I guess that's where
the bee is making its little nest – in a gap in the bricks.

Now, this is not my photo, it's a 'stolen' photograph taken by
Peter O, which I found at the excellent site,
– where you can read even more about this leaf cutter bee,
captured in this perfect action shot. Love your work, Peter O!
I know you can just as easily look up a lot of stuff online these days, and I do this every day, but I still love getting out a reference book from the shelf, a good quality reference book, and looking things up (then reading out the relevant bits to Pammy, of course).

The reference book thing is something that goes back to my childhood. My dear old Dad, in heaven since 1985, was a reference book lover, our house was full of them, on every conceivable topic, and whenever any topic of any sort came up in an argument, the cry went out in our house: "Go and get the book and look it up!". Love your work, Dad.



Lanie at Edible Urban Garden said...

What amazing little insects!

Ngeun said...

Unbelievable! Before was the Encyclo Britannica, now Wikipedia. I like to have hard copy around too. I wonder if those leaf cutter bee makes honey?

Jamie said...


I love Wikipedia, too. But no, these solitary bees don't make honey, and how do I know? Google! Try this site:

And they're not native to Australia: they were introduced to pollinate alfalfa, but they are now known to be important pollinators of various vegies. Altogether welcome introductions.

Ngeun said...

Fascinating! Their nests are quite an artwork too. Thanks Jamie & Google! :)

Sue O said...

I have so far refused to give up my 29-volume set of Funk and Wagnall's Encyclopedia, using just the same reasoning. But, alas, I think I am about to cave, seeing as how I haven't cracked it for several years. The WWW is just too convenient and all-encompassing.

Jamie said...

Yes, Sue, many fine old volumes will never be opened again, but at least my 17-volume Oxford English Dictionary still stands out as something the "www" doesn't get close to matching.

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