A Western honey bee (Apis mellifera) approaches an Indian Lotus (Nelumbo nucifera) and casts its shadow on the Lotus blossom petals.
The Western or European honey bee is the most common of the 7–12 species of honey bee worldwide, and one of the first domesticated insects. It is the primary species maintained by beekeepers to this day for both its honey production and pollination activities. With human assistance, the western honey bee now occupies every continent except Antarctica. Because of its wide cultivation, this species is the single most important pollinator for agriculture globally.
The Indian or Sacred Lotus has roots in the soil of the pond bottom, while the leaves float on top of the water surface or are held well above it. The flowers rise above the leaves and the plant normally grows to a height of about 150 cm (60 inches) and a horizontal spread of up to 3 meters (over 3 feet). A single leaf may be as large as 60 cm (24 inches) in diameter, while the showy flowers can be up to 20 cm (8 inches) in diameter. The lotus has a remarkable ability to regulate the temperature of its flowers to within a narrow range. Lotus flowers have been shown to maintain a temperature of 30–35 °C (86–95 °F), even when the air temperature dropped to 10 °C (50 °F). The Lotus is one of only three species of known thermoregulating, heat-producing, plants. Lotus flowers, seeds, young leaves, and roots are all edible. An individual lotus can live for over a thousand years and has the rare ability to revive into activity after stasis. In 1994, a seed from a sacred lotus, dated at roughly 1,300 years old ± 270 years, was successfully germinated.
In Buddhist symbolism, the lotus represents purity of the body, speech, and mind as if floating above the muddy waters of attachment and desire. In classical written and oral literature of many Asian cultures, the lotus represents elegance, beauty, perfection, purity and grace.