Tetragonula carbonaria is the only species to build upward, in a spiral pattern. Called “sugarbag bees,” the insects are highly social, with one queen overseeing thousands of workers. A batch of 80 cells is built and provisioned at the same time, and after construction the queen bee will lay eggs in them.
source/image: National Geographic
It’s not clear why these stingless bees employ this unique pattern, but it may make it easier for the queen to navigate the hive.In much the same way as regular bees, the queen will then lay her eggs in the cells of the honeycomb. A few suggestions have been put forward by Entomologist Tim Heard.
One is that it’s a clever way to prevent predators from attacking the hive.The unique design has only one way in or out meaning any other insect trying to invade the hive becomes trapped in a mix of wax and propolis which protects the entrance.
It may also be an advanced design feature to make it easier for the queen to navigate the hive or for better ventilation or air circulation.These lovely little bees with their lack of sting and attractive hive are fast becoming a welcome addition to people’s gardens.