Scientists baffled by the mysterious spiral-shaped fortresses of curious species of “stingless” bees in Australia.
Not only do Australia’s sugarbag bees not sting, they are brilliant architects, building amazing spiral-shaped hives.
No one is quite sure why, but entomologist and author of the Australian Native Bee Book Tim Heard has some guesses:
1. Easier navigation for queen bees.
2. Better ventilation/ air circulation.
3. To keep germs and enemies out.
The spiral hives have only one entrance protected by a mix of beeswax and propolis to kill any outside germs and guardian bees to kill any intruders. Any invaders that do make it through are “mummified” in mud and soil, Heard tells National Geographic.
Some are perfect spirals:
Some look more like rose petals:
The spiral shape is frequently recurring theme in nature. It’s found in DNA, fingerprints, galaxies, hurricanes, the path of draining water, whirlpools, sunflowers, vine tendrils, the arrangement of leaves on a plant stem, animal horns, mollusc shells, nautilus shells, snail shells, ferns and algae.
It is argued that logarithmic spirals are so common in biological organisms because it is the most efficient way for something to grow. Maintaining the same shape through each successive turn of the spiral uses the least amount of energy.
Leaves, branches and petals may also grow in spirals so leaves don’t block the sun from older leaves and so the maximum amount of rain reaches the roots.
Because stingless bees are harmless to humans, they’re becoming an increasingly popular addition to backyard gardens.