One day in June we found circles of leaf-confetti on the veranda. There was a drift of them under Rob’s red jacket and when we brushed against it more floated out. Inside the hood was a stock-pile of leaf circles. And behind the hood in the dark recesses of coat, a leaf-cutter bee was building a nest.

Earlier in summer we’d evicted crumpety wasp-nests from our wellies, but the leaf-cutter bee was a curious and welcome guest. Usually they nest in rotting wood, old walls or plant stems. The females glue leaf-circles together with saliva. They lay an egg between each layer and fill the gap with nectar for the larvae.

Snapshot_20140903_2Rob’s waterproof red jacket is slippy and the nest slid out, followed sometime later by a second. Then little Jacob came to visit. With delight and concern he watched the leaf-cutter bee carrying circles of wild rose leaf across the garden. Not to worry said Jacob, he could speak to bees. ‘Go to your new home!’ he said pointing sternly to the hedge. The bee seemed to understand – we didn’t see her again.

We put the nests in a dark recess of shelf and today I took one down for a look. Rolled, overlapping, and beginning to brown at the edges, the rose leaves are pasted into a cigar shape. The cell tracery is clear. Suddenly I heard a muted buzz and saw the undergrowth wobble beside me. There was our leaf-cutter bee – toppling off the fern as if she’d been spying and was keen to remain unseen.

I took another look at Rob’s red jacket. Sure enough and more secure than before, there is another nest in there, deeper into the dark behind the hood.

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