Strange, spiral bee combs look like fantastical crystal palaces. Now we know why.

Image of the spiral combs.

(Live Science) How did these Tetragonula bees become the Frank Lloyd Wrights of the insect world? Does each colony employ its own master architect, charged with guiding his comb’s construction — or does each worker bee merely follow an unconscious set of individually-encoded building rules? According to a new study, “These combs follow the same basic rules that cause crystals to grow up in a spiral pattern.”

Recycling old genes to get new traits: How social behavior evolves in bees

Image of sweat bee in tunnel.

(Phys.org/Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute) A team working at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute found evidence to support a long-debated mode of evolution, revealing how evolution captures environmental variation to teach old genes new tricks: Sweat bees switch from solitary to social behavior, repurposing ancient sets of genes that originally evolved to regulate the development of other traits.