The Dufour's gland of plasterer bees protects their nests from water by secreting a natural polyester.


Bees are some of nature’s most industrious animals. They build their homes, gather food, and care for their young with an impressive level of organization and coordination. But one of the most fascinating aspects of bees is the way they use self-generated materials to build their nests.

The Strategy

Unlike honey bees with their elaborate hive construction, plasterer bees (Colletes) and yellow-faced bees (Hylaeus), develop their breeding chambers in hollow twigs or holes in the ground, and line them with an oral secretion.

This fluid is produced by the Dufour’s , located in a bee’s head. When exuded, the fluid hardens into a cellophane-like film that the bees use to line the walls of the nest cavity. This not only prevents nectar from leaking out, but also keeps the nest dry and free of mold.

The Potential

The ability of bees to produce a liquid that turns to waterproof film, made only from the natural substances the bees eat, can inspire scientists to develop green materials with similar properties. These synthetic materials could be used in a variety of applications, such as waterproofing building materials, protecting food products, or coating medical implants.

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Last Updated October 14, 2022