These stout-bodied bees are 0.25 to 0.75 inches long and metallic or dark coloured. They carry their pollen in a pollen brush located on the underside of the abdomen instead of on the hind legs like most other bees. The favoured nesting sites are in the ground or in natural cavities in wood. However, leaf-cutting bees will excavate tunnels or cells in rotting wood or even wood shingle siding, and insulated panels of buildings. Nests have also been discovered in soft mortar in brick and stone veneer on homes. Occasionally, the empty cells of an abandoned paper wasp or carpenter bee nest will be used.
The holes created by a population of leaf-cutting bees do not pose a structural threat; however, they are often considered unsightly and a cause for concern by property owners. The chewing damage to blossoms and leaves sometimes reaches the economic threshold for growers of ornamentals and alfalfa. However, the negative aspect is offset by the importance of these bees as pollinators of forage, vegetable, and fruit crops.