Bee Fuzz Makes an Amazing Lubricant
by Owen Ayite-Atayi, age 13
The summer is filled with tons of bees everywhere. This means there will be lots of good and sweet honey for people to enjoy.
Although bees produce honey, they tend to struggle doing so. As bees move and collect honey, their outer skeleton, the cuticle, allows them to pass each other smoothly in their hives. Studies have shown that there are tiny hairs located on the cuticle that act like a lubricant known as the “fuzz”.
Jieliang Zhao, the head mechanical engineer at Beijing Institute of Technology in China, believes the fuzz has potential in creating stronger materials. Zhao suspects that most bees are always squirming their body even when they are collecting pollen or laying down. Their legs sweep the pollen out of the flower and empty its debris away from the body. Since bee communities are in constant motion, this fuzz could be needed as a way to avoid friction and protect their bodies.
To study the cuticle and fuzz of bees, researchers used electron scanning microscopy. They observed that parts of the cuticle were covered with small hairs. Each hair was branched with small projections that came out the central shaft. The projections were shaped like a spiky cone and extended less than 50 micrometers long. It was found that these hairs reduce friction, once the cuticle moves across the hairs, energy builds up and forms easy segments for the bees to move.
It is astonishing how small creatures like bees have complex features and processes. Bees are important to nature and the environment and they provide nutrition and honey for various communities. With greater research on these insects improvements can be made to existing processes and items.
[Source: Science News for Students]