bee hovering near a flower

These Special Bees Crafted Nests From Flower Petals

In 2009 two teams came across the handiwork of the Osmia avosetta bees. These discoveries took place in Turkey and Iran. Why are we still talking about this? It all comes down to their beautiful nests. The bees create them using flower petals. Every single nest takes around a day to build and is usually the best place to hold a single bee egg. Their work was published in 2010 in the American Museum Novitates.

One of the members of the group that headed to Turkey, Dr. Jerome Rozen, went on to state, “It’s not common for bees to use parts of plants for nests. There’s a demand for biologists to know about bees nowadays. They are the foremost animal pollinators of plants, and tremendously important for maintaining ecosystems- not only crops but also for conservation.” The creation of these nests does take some time. For this purpose, mother bees would tear off a single petal from a flow and fly it back to her site, one by one. After that, she would start burrowing the nest- with the petals layered around it in a pattern.

The bees' nest made out of flower petals.
Image Credits: © AMNH/J.G. Rozen

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According to the American Museum Novitates- “…the petals were all shaped like the upper part of a heart and were arranged in the same manner: their tips pointed downward and the cut side pointed upward and they overlap like scales in both the inner and the outer petal linings.” After the nesting mother creates the first layer of her nest, she moistens a coat of mud with nectar and puts on a second lining above it. An entire pit of provisions is set aside, “a sticky mixture of yellow-orange pollen, homogenously combined with nectar”- after which the little egg is settled upon. The mother further seals up the nest. After a few days, the egg hatches, which then turns into a larva and consumes the care package that the mother bee has left behind. 

The study has noted, “Although the patchwork of colors on the outer surface of a cell or even the strong colors is a striking phenomenon to the human eye, color of the cell surface is obviously not important to the female bee or her nest. We think the survival value of constructing this elaborate cell lining of petals and soil is the texture, water content, and water repellent- and humidity-retaining nature of petals

Image Credits: © AMNH/J.G. Rozen

Goes without saying, the petalled walls created by the bees aren’t just beautiful- they serve a purpose as well. The researchers have gone on to explain that the floral shield also consists of trapped air. This would let the egg continue floating even if the surrounding area becomes flooded. The moisture that is gleaned from the petals would also help in the water retention for the nest and the provisions. And finally, the nest itself is rigid enough to protect the inhabitant from parasites and predators.

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  1. “Busy Bees Use Flower Petals For Nest Wallpaper” NPR. May 6, 2010.
  2. These Special Bees Craft Nests From Flower Petals.” Tree Hugger. Melissa Breyer. October 11, 2018.
  3. “Nests, Petal Usage, Floral Preferences, and Immatures of Osmia (Ozbekosmiaavosetta (Megachilidae: Megachilinae: Osmiini), Including Biological Comparisons with Other Osmiine Bees” American Museum Novitates. 2010.