Looks Worse Than It Is

Eerily circular holes are cut out of crossvine’s leaves. Click image for larger view.

“Neil! Something is eating up my plants’ leaves. There are perfect circles cut out of them. What does that, and how can I stop it?!!!!”

That’s the way the call comes in on the air. It’s also probably the way I sounded the first time I called my friend, Extension Entomologist H.A. Turney, to ask the very same question.

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Almost exactly the same kind of damage appears on Chinquapin oak leaves. Click image for larger view.

H.A. was always so calm and cool, always with a kind smile. “Neil, that’s the work of the leaf cutter bee, and you might as well tell people to brag about them. They can’t do anything to prevent or control them.”

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And then he went on to explain that this curious insect visits its choice of plants, uses its sharp mouthparts to make this great incision, then carries the flap of leaf tissue back to a dormant downspout or faucet where it builds its nest.

Posted on my Facebook page by reader Robin Brady, this gives you an idea of the looks of the seldom-seen leaf cutter bee. Click image for larger view.

“At some point, your caller will turn on that faucet and a wad of these leaves will blow out ahead of the water all over their shoes.”

H.A. went on to explain that since the leaf cutter bee isn’t actually eating any of the leaf tissue there isn’t any insecticide that will lie in waiting to kill it. You would have to be spraying as it happened by. And, of course, there is no way of curing the damage it’s done. The plant will just have to grow new leaves to cover the damage. Which it will do.

The bottom line of it all is that there is very little harm and not much of a foul here.

You are released to worry about something more troublesome.

Posted by Neil Sperry
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