Monday, September 19, 2011

The NESTING Series: Part Deux: Bees

I know I promised it would be presented here every three weeks until I’d worn the topic out, and I know you were counting down the days until it’s arrival in your virtual mailbox. But when I was all set to launch into the newest subject last week, the wedding of Les and Gay went and blew all of my best-laid plans out of the water. That wedding was such an awesome brat. SO here we are, a week late and a holler short, with segment two in my miniseries on nests: BEES!

But not just any bee. There’s a certain type of bee that lives alone and lines its nests with a probably not delicious mud-and-flower-petal sandwich. Yes, scientists call this nest a “flower sandwich.” But this ain’t no Dagwood. The bee bites the petals off flowers (like the one above), and uses them to line its nest, a shallow hole in the ground, where it will lay its egg in a puddle of nectar and pollen. The pretty petals are held together with mud that hardens and protects the growing larva from intruders. These lovely little husks are soft cradles for a baby bee.

What’s crazy is the bee only lives for about a year, 10 months of which are the period spent underground as a larva, tucked inside the petal sandwich, sleeping! Then once it decides it’s time to claw its way above ground, it spends the last two months of its life looking for a place to lay its egg and build its nest, living only to create new life, living solely for its progeny. 

A while ago I stumbled upon these photographs from National Geographic. Apparently nests by the same species were discovered in Turkey and Iran on the same day, but the difference was that the nests from Turkey were made with yellow, pink, blue, and purple petals, and nests from Iran were made with only purple flowers. The scientists were confounded, wondering whether the difference in color choice was because of genetics or population. I think it’s probably more a question of just what’s in the area. You can only choose from what’s available. Case cracked!

- Cathleen

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