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Mission, Texas

Coelioxys cuckoo bee, Coelioxys azteca, Coelioxys aztecus, Coelioxys slossoni, Coelioxys edita


Aztec cuckoo leafcutter
Coelioxys (Leuraspidia) aztecus

Family:  Megachilidae

Size:  10 mm (female)

           7 mm (male)

Associated plants at NBC:  

Rio Grande abutilon

(Abutilon hypoleucum)   
Plant Family: Malvaceae



(BIdens alba)   
Plant Family: Asteraceae

When Seen:

Oct. - Nov., 2018-2022

Coelioxys azteca;  (c) Copyright 2018 Paula Sharp

A female Aztec cuckoo leafcutter bee (Coelioxys aztecus)


A male Aztec cuckoo leafcutter bee   Coelioxys azteca


Genus Coelioxys  

Coelioxys are cuckoo bees that prey on leafcutter bees by invading their nests and depositing eggs in them.  When the cuckoo's young hatch, they destory the host's eggs or larvae and then devour the stores of nectar and pollen left by the mother leafcutter for her offspring.  

Coelioxys  are members of the same tribe as leafcutter bees -- Megachilini -- and somewhat resemble them.  Cuckoo leafcutters, however, lack pollen-collecting scopal hairs, because they do not collect pollen.  They acquire pollen for their offspring by robbing it from their hosts.  (Cuckoo bees, nonetheless, do drink nectar from flowers.)

The abdomen of the female cuckoo leafcutter terminates in a sharp spade-like tip -- the Greek Coelioxys means "sharp belly".  This feature allows the cuckoos to break through the brood-cell walls that leafcutters construct with leaves, petals and other materials.  Male cuckoo leafcutters have abdomens armed with multi-pronged tips.   

Both male and female cuckoo leafcutters have a habit of grasping leaves and stems with their jaws.  In the Lower Rio Grande Valley, Coelioxys often can be found sleeping in groups on vegetation, hanging by their mandibles. 

General Identification Information: 

Cuckoo leafcutter species are told apart by such traits as leg color; the patterns of pale hair bands and grooves on the abdomen; the form of the abdominal tip; and the shape of the rear edge of the cuckoo's scutellum (second segment of the thorax).  Coelioxys cuckoos have foveae (depressions) on the sides of their second or third abdominal segments (T2 and T3). Noting the size, shape and presence or absence of such foveae often aids in species identification.

Coelioxys frequently have black bodies and legs.  Some species found as far north as New York have red legs and tegulae (the plates where the wings join the bee's body).  Neotropical species, such as those found in the Lower Rio Grande Valley and in Mexico, tend to be more colorful.  In addition to having red legs and tegulae, they may have striking red patterns on their abdomens and thoraxes. 

Cuckoo leafcutter bees  of the Lower Rio Grande Valley

Shown here are six Coelioxys species representing six different subgenera.  All four are striking bees with extensive red coloration.


Four Coelioxys species have been discovered at the National Butterfly Center:  the Aztec cuckoo leafcutter (Coelioxys aztecus);  Slosson's sand-dwelling cuckoo leafcutter (Coelioxys slossoni arenicola); the Texas cuckoo leafcutter (Coelioxys texanus) and the scaly cuckoo leafcutter (Coelioxys editus).    A fifth species,  the Totonac cuckoo leafcutter (Coelioxys totonacus); appeared at Quinta Mazatlan of McAllen, Texas (Hidalgo Co.) in 2022.  A sixth speciess,  the Zapotec cuckoo leafcutter (Coelioxys zapotecus),was recorded at Falcon State Park (Starr co.) in April 2023.

Coelioxys totonacus and Coelioxys zapotecus had not been found previously within the United States.  Coelioxys aztecus is rarely seen in the United States and found principally in Mexico.  Slosson's sand-dwelling cuckoo leafcutter is native to Mexico and border areas of the United States.  Coelioxys edita is a more widespread species, found throughout the western United States, as far east as Illinois, Arkansas and Florida, and as far north as Alberta.

Coelioxys zapoteca; Copyright 3023 Paula Sharp

A female Coelioxys zapotecus  Coelioxys zapoteca

Coelioxys cuckoo leafcutter bee  - (c) Copyright 2018 Paula Sharp

The red underside of a female  Coelioxys slossoni arenicola



Order:   Hymenoptera

Family:   Megachilidae

Subfamily:   Megachilinae

Tribe:  Megachilini

Genus:   Megachile

Species shown on this page:  

    Coelioxys (Glyptocoelioxys) totonacus
      (Totonac cuckoo leafcutter)

    Coelioxys (Leuraspidia) aztecus

       (Aztec cuckoo leafcutter)
    Coelioxys (Neocoelioxys) slossoni arenicola 

       (Slosson's sand-dwelling cuckoo leafcutter)

    Coelioxys (Rhinocoelioxys) zapotecus

       (Zapotec cuckoo leafcutter)

    Coelioxys (Synocoelioxys) texanus
        (Texas cuckoo leafcutter)

    Coelioxys (Xerocoelioxys) editus

        (Scaly cuckoo leafcutter)

Male  Coelioxys totonacus

Coelioxys Species of the Lower Rio Grande Valley

Associated plants:

crucita (female)

(Chromolaena odorata)

resinbush  (male)

(Chromolaena odorata)

Plant family:  Asteraceae

When and where seen:

November 2021
Quinta Mazatlan
McAllen, TX (Hidalgo Co.)

April 25, 2023

Falcon State Park

Roma, TX (Starr Co.)

Totonac cuckoo leafcutter
Coelioxys (Glyptocoelioxys) totonacus

Family:  Megachilidae

Size:  11 mm (female)

           8.5 mm (male)

Coelioxys totonacus; cuckoo leafcutter bee; Copyright 2022 Sharp-Eatman Nature Photography

A female Totonac cuckoo leafcutter bee (Coelioxys totonacus)

Totonac cuckoo leafcutter bee

A female Totonac cuckoo leafcutter bee (Coelioxys totonaca)

Coelioxys totonacus (male); Copyright 2023 Paula Sharp

A male Totonac cuckoo leafcutter bee

Coelioxys (Glyptocoelioxys) totonacus can be recognized by the three prominent spines protruding from the back of its scutellum. The female Totonac cuckoo leafcutter shown here is the first recorded example of this species within the United States.  It appeared at Quinta Mazatlán (Hidalgo Co.) in early November 2021.   The male appeared at Falcon State Park (Starr Co.) in mid-April 2023.  

Associated plants:

(Viguiera stenoloba)

Plant family:  Asteraceae

When and where seen:

April 21, 2023

Falcon State Park
(Starr Co.)

Zapotec cuckoo leafcutter bee

Coelioxys (Rhinocoelioxys) zapotecus

Family:  Megachildae

Size:  10.5 mm  (male)       

Coelioxys (male)

A male Coelioxys zapotecus  Coelioxys zapoteca

Coelioxys (Rhinocoelioxys) zapotecus is a subtropical bee, and its occurrence at Falcon State Park of Starr County marks a significant range extension for this species.   Previously, its northern range was thought to be the Mexican state of San Luis Potosi.  As shown in the accompanying photo strip, male Zapotec cuckoo leafcutters can be recognized by a lossely-defined median ridge on the scutellum, and by a U-shaped notch on the hind rim of S6.  Females have a distinctive bi-lobed structure on the clypeus. 


A description of this species can be found in:  Filho, Léo Correia Da Rocha, and Packer, Laurence (2015).  Revision of the neotropical subgenera Coelioxys (Platycoelioxys) Mitchell and C. (Rhinocoelioxys) Mitchell (Hymenoptera; Megachilidae) with the description of one new species.  Zootaxa 3941 (2): 151-203.

Associated flora at NBC:  


(Viguiera stenoloba)

Seaside goldenrod

(Solidago sempervirens)
Family: Asteraceae

When seen:  October 2019  

Texas cuckoo leafcutter bee

Coelioxys (Synocoelioxys) texanus

Family:  Megachildae

Size:  11 mm  (male)

          14 mm (female)

Coelioxys texanus cuckoo leafcutter bee -(c) Copyright 2019 Paula Sharp

A female Texas cuckoo leafcutter (Coelioxys texanus)  Coelioxys texana


A male Texas cuckoo leafcutter:  note the red antennal scapes

Coelioxys texanus cuckoo leafcutter bee -(c) Copyright 2019 Paula Sharp

A male Texas cuckoo leafcutter

Food plant at NBC:  
Carpet vervain

(Verbena bracteata)


(Alyosia gratissima)
Plant family:  Verbenaceae

(Viguiera stenoloba)
Plant family:  Asteraceae

When seen:

September 2018,
April - July, 2019

Slosson's sand-dwelling 
    cuckoo leafcutter

Coelioxys (Neocoelioxys)  

    slossoni arenicola

Family:  Megachilidae

Size:  15 mm (female)

Coelioxys slossoni arenicola - Female cuckoo leafcutter bee - (c) Copyright 2018 Paula Sharp

A female Coelioxys slossoni arenicola

Coelioxys slossoni - (c) Copyrigt 2019 Paula Sharp

A male Coelioxys slossoni arenicola

Scaly cuckoo leafcutter

Coelioxys (Xerocoelioxys) editus

Family:  Megachilidae

Size:  12 mm (female); 10 mm (male)

Food plant at NBC:  
Common Sunflower

(Helianthus annuus)
Plant Family:  Asteraceae

When seen:

September 2018    

Coelioxys edita Cuckoo Leafcutter Bee -  (c) Copyright 2018 Paula Sharp

A female Coelioxys editus (Coelioxys edita)

Coelioxys edita cuckoo leafcutter -   (c) Copyright 2018 Paula Sharp

A male Coelioxys editus

CITE THIS PAGE:  Sharp, Paula and Ross Eatman.  "Coelioxys."  Wild Bees of the National Butterfly Center of Mission, Texas. 15 Jan. 2019,  Accessed [day/month/year guide accessed].

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