Flower Children: The Colorful Nests of Osmia

Photo by Jerome Rozen/American Museum of Natural History

Photo by Jerome Rozen/American Museum of Natural History

Bee larvae never have to share a room. The mother crafts for each of her children a nursery room, called a “cell.” Some species build these cells out of mud, others out of leaves. But perhaps the most beautiful nurseries are built by some species of the genus Osmia, which construct cells out of a paper-thin layer of mud encased in colorful flower petals (pictured above).

In the charmingly written article “Busy Bees Use Flower Petals for Nest Wallpaper,” NPR writer Kathleen Masterson interviews bee nest expert Jerome Rozen on the artistic habits of these solitary bees in an article complete with gorgeous photos taken by none other than Dr. Rozen himself. I highly recommend it to bee enthusiasts and romantic dreamers alike.

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6 responses to “Flower Children: The Colorful Nests of Osmia

  1. Such beautiful crafters. I absolutely go nuts over color and texture!!!
    I wish someone would make me such a beautiful nest?

  2. Katerina E. Simonetti

    These are such artistic bees! I am so impressed with their natural ingenuity. I am wondering though, if there is a reason they would want to call attention to their offspring by housing them in something so beautiful. Great article!

    • That’s an interesting question. I was also confused by the article because it uses the terms ‘nest’ and ‘cell’ interchangeably. To me they mean two different things; a “nest” would be the equivalent of a house or an apartment building and a “cell” would be a single room for a single larva. Upon rereading the article, it sounds like this particular species builds one-room houses (or a nest consisting of only one cell). This cell, or room, is inside a burrow in the ground, so the flower petals lining it would not be visible to the passerby. But I think this, too, poses an interesting question. It must take a lot of time and effort to line the cell with flower petals, so what purpose do these petals serve?

  3. Purpose of a petal: would it be that these bees are artistically maternal by nature that they have to have beauty besides the essential things necessary for the egg/larva to survive? Like humans, an expectant mother, would create a beautiful nursery to welcome her offspring. Absolutely fascinating. The thing that came to mind is: can these nests/cells be preserved afterwards? Imagine a collection of miniature gorgeous cells!

  4. I nominated you for the Liebster Award!
    Info here: http://thepursuitofpie.wordpress.com/

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