An adorable photo of bees nestled inside a flower is making the rounds on the internet — and putting a spotlight on these tiny pollinators.
Arizona-based nature photographer Joe Neely first published the photo for the world to see in April 2018. Thousands of people have shared it on social media since then.
Neely told Bored Panda he was actually traveling around looking for poppy flowers to photograph when his fiancée Niccole noticed a patch of pink flowers on the side of a highway and they pulled over to take pictures. The orange flower containing the sleeping bees was inside that patch.
Niccole was the first to notice the stillness of the bees inside the orange flower — a globe mallow plant. It’s the perfect flower for a tiny bee to snuggle up in … it has petals that round upward in a bowl-like form.
Globe mallows are drought-tolerant perennials and often found in desert-like areas. They can grow up to three feet tall.
The flowers require a lot of sunshine in order to grow, but they can deal with dry, rocky and sandy soil. Bees are attracted to them because they produce a steady source of pollen and nectar.
Their comfort inside the pretty plant is what got Neely this great shot, which he posted to Facebook:
So beautiful! Those two bees were clearly getting some good rest in the hot desert sun.
Bees that sleep inside globe mallows help the flowers, too. The U.S. Forest Service says that these bees carry the pollen around on their bodies, helping to pollinate the next flowers they visit.
That’s why they are also called globe mallow bees. These specialized bees, like most native bee species, are generally solitary and adapted to take pollen from specific flowers.
Honey bees, their more well-known counterparts, live together in hives and are actually not native to North America. Both species are important in pollinating crops, but native bees can actually be more successful pollinators because they have evolved in tandem with their flowers.
Bees don’t have eyelids, so you can’t tell if they are asleep. According to Brandon Hopkins, a bee researcher at Washington State University, scientists have found that when honey bees sleep they’ll stop moving their antenna and may fall over sideways. However, we don’t necessarily know if that’s true of other bees, since honey bees have been studied much more closely.
Neely said he stayed a comfortable distance away and zoomed in to not disturb the little nappers inside the flower.
Aren’t these bees cute? We love that this picture is helping people learn about our local bees!
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