At the end of April, TTI installed 2 Bee Hotels at our headquarter office. For Part 1 of the story, click here.
Here is Part 2:
The hum of bees is the voice of the garden. ~Elizabeth Lawrence
Most of the world’s bees live alone. The world is home to 21,000 species of bees, the United States is home to more than 4,000 species of bees, and 90% of bee species do not live in social structures.
We call this bee behavior and lifestyle “solitary” and every solitary bee is fertile. Solitary female bees are fertile queens and they have all the duty and responsibility to take care of their young. Each female bee must gather pollen and nectar, build nests, and lay eggs. Solitary female bees are gentle because they are too busy to aggressively protect their nesting site and they simply can’t risk their lives. Solitary bees don’t live in colonies, they don’t build hives, they don’t make honey or wax, and they don’t form attack swarms. Most solitary bees have a short lifespan as flying adults. When they first look for a good nesting spot, they may fly a few miles searching, but once they check into their new bee home they only fly a few hundred feet from their nesting site. The female bee will build her own nest in close proximity to other females of the same species.
While cities and suburbs support a wide array of pollinators, there are still challenges with increasing pesticide use and dwindling food supplies, loss of habitat has led to declining populations across the country. Available nesting space is at a premium. Like birdhouses, bee hotels provide vital nesting habitat.
Relatively simple in form, consisting of a birdhouse like structure containing a series of exposed reed-like tubes that the bees can lay eggs in. Bee hotels are usually constructed from boxes or containers that are filled with sticks, pine cones, bamboo shoots, or logs with holes drilled in them. Different species of bee have different housing requirements, so building a mixed material hotel is beneficial. Hole-nesting bees that nest in pre-made cavities come in a variety of sizes and it’s best for them to nest in a hole that is just the right size and depth for them. The native bee hotel should ideally be facing between the north and east, in a sunny to semi-shaded position that is sheltered, and it should be firmly fixed to a wall, a tree, or the ground; it should not shift around or sway in the wind.
Since the resources these bees need are natural and easy to provide, we can help support solitary bees by providing flowering habitat in our landscapes. TTI’s hotels are place in two locations, one near our Monarch Butterfly Waystation Garden, and the other near the natural forest land strip at the property’s perimeter.
Bee hotels require regular upkeep. Because bee hotels host bees at a higher density than a natural nesting site, disease and pathogens can quickly spread among visitors. Replacing used stems and nest blocks every few seasons can help prevent the spread of mites, fungus, and other parasites.
TTI is happy to consider the bee hotels part of our ecological give-back. Bees are important pollinators that are essential to maintaining healthy ecosystems and a healthy environment. In recent years we are witnessing a great death toll of bees, caused by intensive farming, pesticides and climate change. Nature is alive thanks to a delicate balance, each species is essential for biodiversity. But these insects are not like the other endangered species, our future depends directly on their existence.