“Can bee hives be preserved as fossils?”

Not a fossilized beehive, although fossilized favosite corals like this one are often mistaken for fossilized beehives by amateur collectors. (Image: The Virtual Fossil Museum)

Most fossil beehives turn out to be fossilized coral. Google “favosites” and you’ll see what I mean.

That’s because the honeycombs that give beehives their distinctive look are made of wax,  and are extremely fragile. In most cases, they are destroyed long before the beehive can be preserved as a fossil.

Even so, according to Dr. Judi Kusnick’s lecture notes for her Geology 105: Paleontology class at Sacramento State, paleontologists have found fossilized bee hives. Sadly, aside from a specimen preserved in amber that might be a beehive or might just be a wasp nest but which can’t be viewed without the proper online credentials, I wasn’t able to find any images of fossilized beehives online. At least, none that I trusted the source to have identified correctly.

Anyone out there have better luck?

About Shala Howell

I spent two decades helping companies like Bell Labs, Juniper Networks, and a genetic testing company that was later acquired by CVS translate some of the world’s most complicated concepts into actionable, understandable English. Now I'm working on a much harder problem -- fostering children’s curiosity and engagement in the scientific, artistic, and linguistic world that surrounds them. The first book in my Caterpickles Parenting Series, What’s That, Mom?, focuses on how to use public art to nurture children’s curiosity in the world around them. My next book will focus on science, and how parents without a science degree can answer their curious child's questions without enrolling in a college level refresher course. In the meantime, you can find me blogging about life with a very curious Eleven-Year-Old at Caterpickles.com, chatting about books and the writing life at BostonWriters.blog, and tweeting about books, writing, science, & things that make me smile at @shalahowell.
This entry was posted in Ask the iPhone, Nature and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to “Can bee hives be preserved as fossils?”

  1. Kristen says:

    If you send me your email address I will send you a picture of what my brother found.


  2. kim says:

    I found one at wickillow beach in ontario canada. Email me for pics . Fearnie91@gmail.com


  3. Billy says:

    i have found a possible wasp nest fossil, it looks more like a wasp nest then a bee hive but i could be wrong. In some of the outer hex holes i can see crystals that sparkle scattering light in many directions. Also in another hex hole i can see a small chunk of stone that looks like the material Native Americans used to make arrow heads. It has completely turned into stone. I don’t know how old this is, but could you give me a rough estimate on how old you think it is?


    • Shala Howell says:

      That sounds really cool, Billy. Thanks for visiting Caterpickles and taking the time to tell me about it.
      Unfortunately, I’m not actually an expert in stuff like this, so I can’t even venture a guess.
      I’d start by checking out a book on fossils at your local library to see if you can find anything that matches it. You will want to rule out the possibility that it’s a fossilized favosite coral.
      If you are pretty sure that what you have isn’t a favosite, you’ll want to get an actual expert opinion. Do you have a college with a geology department near you? Or a natural history museum? Either of these places would have folks on staff who would be better able to judge your fossil than I.
      If your local high school has a good science program & motivated teachers, you could try reaching out to their administration office and asking if you can speak to one of their science teachers about it. All the science teachers I know love to help people track down puzzles like this. They’ll have helpful pointers, if not actual answers.
      Failing that, you could try taking your fossil into a rock shop. The owner of it may be able to tell you what you’ve found — or give you some hints on where you can find more information about it. (I wouldn’t simply sell it to the shop owner, though, until you’ve done your own research to verify what he / she tells you, as he/she may have a financial interest at stake at odds with your own.)
      Good luck. I’d love to know what you found out, so if you have time, stop back by and tell me.
      Thanks for reading Caterpickles.


  4. Audrey Madeley says:

    I found what would appear to be a a bee hive fossil with it’s distinct hexagon shaped holes but I’m not sure now that you said it could possibly be coral.


    • Shala Howell says:

      Hi Audrey. Thanks for stopping by Caterpickles and taking the time to tell me about it.
      Whatever it ends up being, it sounds like a neat rock. 🙂

      We haven’t found a beehive-like fossil here yet, although my daughter faithfully looks everywhere she happens to be where there are rocks (a really long way of saying everywhere).

      Enjoy the find, and if you would like to know which kind of fossil it is, you might ask a local expert for help figuring it out. Potential helpers include a friendly science teacher, the owner of a rock shop, even your local librarian, who could at the very least point you in the direction of some books on the topic.

      Good luck. I’d love to know what you figure out!


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