Fall: Remove, Protect & Store
When temperatures cool to 60°F/15°C, leafcutter bees will have completed nesting for the season.
Leafcutters hibernate as delicate larvae inside of their leafy cocoons over the fall and winter. So, to protect them from pests, you'll want to remove, protect, and store the nesting materials to keep the hibernating bee larvae safe from parasitic wasps, ants, birds, and other predators.
IMPORTANT: Leafcutter bees cannot be stored in the refrigerator like mason bees. Make sure to read Protect and Store below to learn what to do with your leafcutter bees at the end of the season.
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Leafcutter bees have usually completed nesting by late summer or early fall, temperatures depending. Once you no longer see females moving in and out of your bee house or daytime temps drop to 60°F/15°C, it's time to remove the filled nesting materials from the bee house.
If you have reusable Wood Trays: Wait until you no longer see females moving in and out of your bee house, or daytime temps drop to 60°F/15°C, before removing the wood trays.
If you have Natural Reeds or BeeTubes: It is possible to remove individual-filled nesting materials as soon as you see the leaf-capped end. But be cautious because leafcutter bees use visual cues to locate their nests. If you shift nesting materials around, the nesting females may become disorientated and abandon the nests. For this reason, we don't recommend removing individual-filled nesting materials unless there is evidence of predators.
If you decide to remove filled tubes, make sure you replace them with empty ones to keep all the other tubes in the same place, so active females can still locate their specific nests. We also recommend you swap in the evenings to help females reorient the minor changes when they begin flying again in the morning.
Place all filled nesting materials in a BeeGuard Bag or another breathable, transparent bag, with the leafy-capped ends face up. The bag will protect the developing bees from hungry predators. Placing the leafy-capped ends face up will help ensure the egg and developing bee stay on top of the pollen loaf (bee food).
Pro Tip: If rodents are an issue, place nesting materials into a thick plastic or metal chew-proof container. Don't forget to add a few air holes to the container.
Store the filled nesting materials in an unheated and un-conditioned garage or shed until harvest time the following spring. If you don't have an unconditioned indoor area, they can remain outside but must be protected from the rain, snow, and predators. The development of leafcutter bees is temperature-dependent, so make sure you store the bag in a dry area with natural outdoor temperatures. Regularly check the BeeGuard Bag for the first few weeks and look for any parasites that may have emerged. Kill any pests and parasites to keep them from attacking your developing bees.
In the spring, you'll want to harvest cocoons. Harvesting leafcutter bee cocoons is a quick and easy way to ensure a healthier leafcutter bee population! Check out our simple guide with video tutorials to help you learn how to harvest cocoons.
Pro Tip: To extend the life of your bee house, uninstall and store indoors over the fall and winter.