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Watch museum bees get a shampoo and blowout before their debut

A curator styles the tiny hairs of a bee. (AMNH)
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New career ambition: Bee stylist.

In a recent blog post, the American Museum of Natural History explains the beautification process its fragile bee specimens go through before their close-ups.

[Bees naturally vaccinate their babies, scientists find]

You might know AMNH as the best place in New York to meet some dinosaurs, but it's an active research facility, too. Behind the scenes, researchers are doing important scientific research on the museum's extensive collection of fossils, artifacts, and preserved animals. The specimens on display are just a tiny part of the museum's offerings.

Among those treasure troves of research specimens are nearly 500,000 bees -- including 7,100 distinct species.

Most of those bees arrived at the museum floating in alcohol, and that's no way to examine a bee that could very well be a new species. Researchers need to see the bees as close as they were to life as possible -- not soaked and floating in a vial of preservative.

That's where Curatorial Assistant Melody Doering comes in: She's a bee beautician.

First, Doering draws a bee bath and gives them a nice shampoo. There's no scalp massage for the tiny insects -- just a quick shake in a vial filled with water and a smidgen of soap.

Then it's time for the blow dry that comes courtesy of an air compressor like the one with which you would fill an air mattress.

But you can't let those bees go to the researchers with a frizzy 'do. Doering uses tiny brushes to put the tiny hairs back in their proper places.

Then the bees are finally ready for researchers to gawk at them for years to come.

Just think -- this is the amount of work that goes into preserving a single bee. And one that will probably never be seen by most museum goers, at that! To find out more about the hidden treasures being cared for at AMNH, check out the museum's Web series Shelf Life.

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