Wild theories as mysterious flower circles appear around dead bees

Two photographs showing circles of flower petals with dead bees in the middle have sent social media into a frenzy.

Attracting over 90,000 likes since they were posted on Twitter on Sunday, online detectives are now buzzing with creative theories as to who or what is behind them.

A bee serial killer and a strange insect funeral ritual are just two of the off-beat suggestions, North Carolina poet Sophie Klahr has received since she asked her followers: "What the hell is going on here?".

Multiple theories have emerged about the flower circles photographed by Sophie Klahr (right). Source: Supplied
Multiple theories have emerged about the flower circles photographed by Sophie Klahr (right). Source: Supplied

Speaking with Yahoo News Australia, Ms Klahr said she had been walking to the pool to take a swim when she noticed the flower arrangements on the ground.

Looking closer she noticed there was a large number of ants crawling among the petals.

“I assumed that it was a reaction from some other insect because it was so specific,” she said.

“Or I thought that maybe there was some sort of insect focus sociopath hanging around the pool.

“There were plenty of trees like that around, but they were all under one tree.”

What we know about the flower circles

  • The bees were underneath a golden rain tree

  • Ants were crawling amongst the petals

  • A college town in North Carolina is where they were found

  • Between five and six flower circles were observed

  • Some circles were up to 1.8 metres apart

What experts say is behind the strange flower circles

Yahoo News Australia has reached out to La Trobe University bee researcher Dr Katja Hogendoorn who had three possible suggestions:

  1. Ants are hiding the smell from competitors.

  2. Ants placed the bees on top of their nests.

  3. It was set up by humans.

Native bee expert Dr Kit Prendergast ruled out online theories that the ants were holding some sort of ritual for deceased insects.

"People love to anthropomorphise that its some sort of funeral thing, but the truth is it's probably likely the ants (are responsible).

"What they'll do when their prey is too big for them is they'll cover it up with debris to hide it from other foraging insects.

"They'll then wait for it to decompose a little bit before bringing it back to their hive in bits and pieces."

People online react to strange flower circles

Online responses to Ms Klahr’s post were split between bee jokes, anecdotes of similar occurrences, and possible scientific explanations.

Between five and six bee circles were found under the tree. Source: Sophie Klahr
Between five and six bee circles were found under the tree. Source: Sophie Klahr

Many of the respondents suspected a human was behind the flower circles.

“I don’t know if this applies to the bees where you are, but when my girls see a dead bee they gather flowers to adorn the space out of respect for the bee,” one person wrote.

"It’s a bee serial killer. Something tells me this is just the beginning," someone else said.

Some suspected the ants were responsible.

“Ants will pile debris around big pieces of food they plan to cart back to the hive later to keep other ground scavengers away,” suggested one science-minded respondent.

“Might be ants trying to hide their large, exposed meals from other scavengers while they cart mouthfuls back to the nest,” another person wrote.

Other respondents were quite creative.

“I feel like the ants know that the bees are going extinct and now they are having rituals for every single one that dies. A kind of creepy messaging to humans that we need to be better stewards,” someone else wrote.

“It's pretty simple, the flowers really want to get pollinated. If the bees aren't able to move, it leaves it up to the flowers to seek them out,” joked another person.

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