BEAUTY AND THE BEES

When I ran across this story, I found it utterly fascinating. And, I thought you would, too. Did you even know this type of bee existed? Well, I had no idea. But, what a beautiful nest it makes!

Our Creator is the same one who created these tiny bees. It is He who put the knowledge into the very first of its kind. The God who creates the great and mighty wonders of this world is the same God who creates tiny masterpieces that often we fail to notice.

“Listen! Stand still and consider the wonders of God.” Job 37:14

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When we think of bee nests, we often think of a giant hive, buzzing with social activity, worker bees and honey. But scientists recently discovered a rare, solitary type of bee that makes tiny nests by plastering together flower petals.

Each nest is a multicolored, textured little cocoon — a papier-mache husk surrounding a single egg, protecting it while it develops into an adult bee.

“It’s not common for bees to use parts of plants for nests,” says Dr. Jerome Rozen of the American Museum of Natural History of the unexpected find. His team stumbled across the nests of the Osmia (Ozbekosima) avoseta bee in Turkey. Oddly enough, another team discovered the same bee and flowery nests in Iran on the same day. The two teams published their research together in the American Museum Novitates.

These Thumbelina-like nests are a fascinating natural work of art, but they’re also key to understanding more about how the roughly 20,000 species of bees live.

“There’s a demand for biologists to know bees nowadays,” Rosen says. “They are the foremost animal pollinators of plants, and tremendously important for maintaining ecosystems ‚Äî not only crops but also for conservation.”

To learn more, the scientists watched the busy mama bees. Building a nest takes a day or two, and the female might create about 10 nests in total, often right next to each other. To begin construction, she bites the petals off of flowers and flies each petal — one by one — back to the nest, a peanut-sized burrow in the ground.

She then shapes the multi-colored petals into a cocoon-like structure, laying one petal on top of the other and occasionally using some nectar as glue. When the outer petal casing is complete, she reinforces the inside with a paper-thin layer of mud, and then another layer of petals, so both the outside and inside are wallpapered — a potpourri of purple, pink and yellow.

These meticulous shells are just over a half-inch long and usually will house just one tiny egg. To prepare for her offspring, the mother collects pollen and nectar, which she carries back to the burrow in a nifty part of the digestive tract called the crop. She deposits this gooey blob of nutritional goodness in the bottom of the flower-petal nest. Then, she lays the egg, right on top of the gelatinous blob.

At this point, it’s time to seal in the egg. The mother bee neatly folds in the inner layer of petals, smears a paper-thin mud layer and then folds the outer petals. The casing is nearly airtight, which helps protect the vulnerable egg (and later larva, then pupa) from flooding or excessive dryness or hoofed animals.

In only three to four days, the egg hatches into a larva. When it finishes feasting on the nectar, the larva spins a cocoon (still inside the shell, which has hardened into a protective casing by this point) and then hangs out. Rosen says he isn’t sure whether it spends the winter as a larva or as an adult. But at some point the creature’s tissue begins to restructure itself, and it transforms into an adult. Come springtime, the adult bee emerges from its flowery bower.

Then, the cycle starts all over again. (Published May 6,2010, NPR)

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“The Lord has done this, it is marvelous in our eyes.” Psalms 118:23

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5 Comments

  1. That was very fascinating….didn't know that either. Thanks for visiting, and yes, Nathan is doing good. We will be going back to B'ham at the end of this month for a heart catheterization, but hopefully that will be all. I will update when we find out. Thanks for asking. And Happy Borthday to your dad and son. Blessings, Debbie

  2. I told this to everybody I could corner when I first saw it!! My viewing was on WHIRLYBIRD, whose glimpses of tiny things and little vignettes of nature are just charming and so interesting.

    I can remember trying to describe the intricate little overlaps of the petals and the sheer TINY of it, out to dinner with friends, gesturing past the glasses, holding finger-and-thumb just this far apart., trying to convey the overwhelming reality of such a wee, perfect thing, wrought by such a small, almost-unseen creature.

    I'm so glad you used it!!! And I'm glad to be back, seeing what's going on while I was away!

  3. What beautiful nests! Those would make nice bouquets. Where do these bees live?

  4. That is amazing. Thank you for sharing this. I have never heard of them and I love the colors.

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