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He lounges on crimson flower petals in his impenetrable fortress. And he's only 1/8th of an inch long.

We were sitting out back in my yard one day, when a red flash caught my eye.  I turned to look at the hollow tubed steel bed section I use as a gardening tool rack.

A tiny wasplike critter was trying to stuff a slice of red flower petal into a hole in the metal. The hole was just about the same circumference as the bug. He, or she, finally managed to work the petal into the hole and disappeared.

I kept my eye out for it to exit the hole, but I will admit I am easily distracted and my dad and I were drinking wine.

While I never saw him leave, I repeatedly spotted him returning with long strips of bright flower petal, carefully trimmed to nearly identical specs.

Where was he getting those red petals? I finally got curious enough to pay attention. The little guy crawled out of the hole and took off to the east. I found him in a stand of Clarkia, a California native with streaked white and dark pink petals. The bee was carefully clipping out a colored petal center with his mandibles. Once done, he bundled it up in his legs and headed back to his hole. I noticed a number of Clarkia flowers were missing their red stripes!

Inside his hole, braziers waft perfumed smoke, and his glorious bed of petals gleams with the light of guttering candles. He sprawls on his bed, tired from his exhausting labors, as plump pink, wingless females fan him with gardenia petals.

That's why I call him the Caliph. He lives in decadent splendor.

I told you I was drinking wine!

Not to take all the fun out of it, but I looked him up. He is a she, a leaf-cutter bee. They're solitary native bees with a penchant for interior decorating.

Originally posted to xenubarb on Sun Aug 01, 2010 at 04:03 PM PDT.

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