These Bees Make Flower-Petal Nests for Their Babies

June 2, 2018 at 5:09 am

Mothers of a rare bee species build beautiful “petal-mache” cocoons for each of their eggs

Nearly 10 years ago scientists discovered something amazing in Turkey and Iran — tiny little nests made of flower petals.

What at first appeared to be the handiwork of fairies, turned out to be extremely durable cocoons crafted by Osmia avosetta bees, one for each egg.

Mother bee bites petals off of flowers and flies them back, one by one, to a small burrow, where she layers them until they form a nest.

Then she tops the first layer of petals with a thin coating of mud before arranging an outer layer of petals.

Finally, she lines the nest with “a sticky mixture of yelloworange pollen, homogeneously combined with nectar,” deposits her egg and seals it up like a pretty little package.

After a few days, the egg hatches into a larva, eats the care package left by the mother bee, then spins itself a cocoon inside of its flowery home until it is ready to emerge.

Apparently the bees have selected flower petals for more than just their beauty. Combined with mud and nectar, they create the perfect texture and humidity levels to protect the eggs.

Flower petals retain just the right amount of moisture, while repelleing excess water, while the the rigidity of the nest protects eggs from predators and parasites. The floral shells even include trapped air that allow them to float in a flood.

“It’s not common for bees to use parts of plants for nests,” Dr. Jerome Rozen of the American Museum of Natural History told NPR.

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