Bee Cause…! December ?
The Little Bee That Saved Christmas ?
In the queendom of beedom, there is known to be a small bee from the genus Hylaeus sp. that has been credited with saving Christmas by researchers in New Zealand. This sweet little bee formed a much needed, yet mysterious symbiotic relationship with a very rare form of mistletoe (Peraxilla tetrapetala).
Now this is not your average, run-of-the-mill mistletoe. Rather, a single Peraxilla plant can live for more than a century, producing a cluster of spectacular crimson buds each year around the time of the Winter Solstice. ?
Strangely, the flower of this mistletoe species cannot open by itself, rather it relies upon a couple of birds in the honeyeater species to pry their buds open to pollinate. While this arrangement is convenient, it leaves the Peraxilla vulnerable, with it’s basic survival reliant upon another species. Under ‘normal’ circumstances, this shouldn’t be a problem. Sadly, the birds have fallen victim to several non-native species that have decimated the honeyeater bird population in New Zealand. (Thanks to the illegal introduction of opossums, rats, domestic cats and ferrets!) Thus, leaving the Peraxilla seeds unable to pollinate and multiply.
With a mighty drum roll please, enters this cute little bee into our story. With a gallant effort to get to the golden nectar of the Peraxilla, the bee works tirelessly to open some of the crimson buds. And while it may take an immense effort for the Hylaeus bee to gain access to the flower’s stigma to pollinate, in recent years their herculean efforts have nearly doubled the number of fertilized seeds. Hence, providing New Zealanders with their beloved vibrant red Christmas flowers and mistletoe, while feeding a hungry bee population.
So, here is a big shout out to all the teeny-tiny, itty-bitty Hylaeus bees for their altruistic, sweet effort to assist in saving the nearly extinct Peraxilla tetrapetala in New Zealand. Well done ladies!!!!!
*Photo by Pixabay