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Page last updated at 09:42 GMT, Tuesday, 18 August 2009 10:42 UK
Fascinating leaf creation found

A strange insect creation found in a garden in Tredworth
Similar to the size of a cigar, the creation was found in a garden in Tredworth

A fascinating formation, created by a leafcutting bee, has been found in a Tredworth garden.

After several nights of finding bits of chopped-up leaves on the patio table, the cigar-shaped creation dropped out of Brian Mince's parasol.

"The parasol had been closed down in the garden on the table and I had a cover over it to protect it," said Brian.

I just cannot explain the beauty of it. It is such a precision engineered thing. I'm just fascinated to know what has done it.
Brian Mince

"When the sun came out again I decided to open the parasol up and whilst we sat underneath, my wife commented that there was a stain on top.

"On further investigation I looked and it was the shadow of this strange object, which I took off, and it was the most fascinating thing I've ever seen."

The object is about 17.8cm in length, mid-green colour and tapers up from about 1cm at one end to 2cm at the other.

'Beauty'

Brian described it by saying it looks like it is "made up entirely of beautiful cups of leaves which has evidently been made by some form of insect.

A strange insect creation found in a garden in Tredworth
Experts are suggesting the object is the work of a leaf cutting bee

"That's the only way I can explain it. You need to see it to see the precision of it."

This particular one however is not the first Brian has seen. A few days before, the first one to drop out of the parasol was accidentally thrown out, as Brian explains:

"I put it aside to look at it later and show my grandson and when I went to get it out my wife, bless her, had thrown it in the dustbin.

"So I forgot all about it until two days later I went out and there was another of these things on the table which had obviously fallen from inside the parasol.

"I just cannot explain the beauty of it. It is such a precision engineered thing. I'm just fascinated to know what has done it."

What you have said about the photo

Prem, Haiku, Hawaii:

I am a carpenter here in Hawaii and I see things like this when I remove window and door trim on the outside of buildings. A type of wasp makes them and puts it's larvae in it. They aren't nearly as big though, maybe 1 1/2", but the same beautiful leaf wrap.

Wes Zebrowski, Bethel Connecticut:

It looks very much like a carpenter bees nest. These are built in the wooden trim of your house. The tubular nest in the wood trim are filled with alternating layers of cut leaf, pollen, wax, and an egg. Very cool to see the difference between the bees here and across the pond.

Bill Brake, Winston-Salem, NC, USA:

I have seen these fall from the window jambs in my house where they are shaded by a plum tree. I always thought they were exquisite and am glad to know where they came from.

Faustino, Brisbane, Australia:

We have seen similar structures created by a caterpillar in SE Queensland. No parasols required.

James, London:

That looks like a cocoon of a butterfly or moth similar those found in acadia trees in the tropics. Wasps, bees or hornets don't form such cocoon. Only a long larvae or caterpillar may be the maker.

Stuart Smith, Coventry:

Aside from this bee nest theory (except it's difficult to imagine bees being this dextrous) from previous comments, anybody stop to think it might just be man-made?

Martin Perrett, Falmouth, Cornwall:

Could it be a leaf cutting bee that has got confused by the closed parasol?

Carol, Reigate, Surrey:

This is the nest of a leaf cutter bee; the bee uses segments of leaves such as from roses to make the liner, and each of up to 20 cells contains nectar, pollen and an egg.

The leaf cutter is a solitary bee, very useful for pollination

Nick Stoneman, Carmarthen, Wales:

I have seen a similar structure tucked up inside the gap of a wooden window frame. I have also seen film of leaf cutter bees forming nests for their grubs in the UK - look very similar.

Rose Keeling, Studley, Warwickshire:

I found one of these in the same place, just under the cover of our garden parasol, which again when we opened, noticed on the top and pushed it off. There was a bee buzzing around as well that would not leave, and kept returning with small bits of leaf in its jaw. I looked at the leaf structure and after removing the top 'cell' found underneath a sticky, wax like substance. I had a look on the internet and thought it may have been a leaf-cutter bee, a type of solitary bee that makes structures like this and it was a laval tube, kind of like a stack of cups and in the bottom of each cup a bee larva grows and the waxy substance I found is what the larva gets it's nutrients from. Of course I am no expert and this is just from information I found online.

J Piggott, London:

This looks like the work of a solitary bee (hmm a big one), perhaps it liked the folds of the parasol as a home to lay it's larvae. I watched a couple bees for hours munch fingernail size pieces of leaf from my English Maple tree, they curl the leaves under their bellies, fly to there chosen site and stuff them down a hole or in this case the parasol folds.

Dr Kieren Pitts, Amateur Entomologists' Society:

I suspect it's the work of a leaf cutting bee.

Leaf cutting bees are solitary bees (most people think all bees have colonies but the vast majority of species are solitary) and I suspect a female found a suitable crevice in the parasol and started provisioning it. When the parasol was opened the crevice opened up and the work of the bee fell out.

Normally leaf cutting bees find a suitable hole in a tree or fence post etc and then start lining it with leaves. They line a small section at the base of the hole to create a small cell. They stock the cell with pollen and lay a single egg. They then close the cell and start lining another (moving steadily closer to the hole's opening). So you get a series of cells in a column - as seen in the photo. When they have filled the hole completely the adult bee moves on to another.

The activity of leaf cutting bees can often be seen in gardens as leaves will have very neat semi-circles cut from them.

The bees are completely harmless and do not sting. They are important pollinators. Ideally the cells should be returned to a sheltered location outside and, as they're likely to be fragile, protected from the elements in a way that will allow the bees to emerge (from the open end) next year. If they're kept indoors they'll be too warm and the bees will emerge too soon.

Richard Olver, Manchester:

It is probably a nest, or rather a series of egg chambers, made by a solitary bee species, that used semi circular sections of cut leaves to make the structure you see in the photograph. It was made by the bee when the parasol was folded. I've seen similar nests in air bricks, and even the end of a hose! You can buy special nest boxes for these insects, which are very important pollinators.

Carol Rainbow, Kingham, Oxon:

My husband thinks that there is some sort of wasp or hornet that makes its nest like that but we do not know which one - sorry :-)




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