Hotels with a lot of buzz
Two bee hotels decorated by conservation volunteers (Photo by NCC)
Bee populations are diminishing all over the world, largely due to habitat loss and pesticides. Staff at the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s (NCC’s) Saskatchewan Region work to protect native grassland, which protects habitat for native bee populations on the Prairies. However, there is something we all can do.
This August, NCC's Saskatchewan Region staff and 40 Conservation Volunteers headed to NCC's Old Man on His Back Prairie and Heritage Conservation Area, a 5,297-hectare (13,088-acre) native grassland ranch in southwestern Saskatchewan. Along with camping out on the prairie, NCC staff spent Saturday morning teaching volunteers how to build their own bee hotels. They were assisted by University of Regina student Kirsten Palmier, who is doing her master's research on native Saskatchewan bumble bees.
The bee hotel they built is small and made from a tin can, with filler materials like cotton or pine cones, and bamboo stalks. The hotels provide a safe haven for solitary bees that live independently from hives to lay their eggs in. In Saskatchewan, NCC's engagement manager, Kayla Burak, says that bee hotels cater to mason bees.
Bee species like the mason bee, which does not live in hives or produce honey, are still an essential part of an ecosystem as pollinators. In the Prairies, they help maintain the presence of native wildflowers. Mason bees nest in cylindrical above-ground cavities like plant stems (bamboo stalks, for example) and without the need to maintain a hive or make honey, they have a lot more free time for pollinating.
With a bee hotel, the creation and maintenance of a bee’s nest is a responsibility we can take on. Finding a dry, temperate place for the hotel and replacing the materials inside the can is all it takes.
It’s something we can do for the bees and with the whole family. Kayla says seeing how proud and excited even the adult volunteers became about the decoration and creation of their individual hotels made her heart happy.
Follow these instructions to build a bee hotel of your own: http://www.natureconservancy.ca/en/blog/archive/bee-our-guest.html#.XVbEw9NKjBI
Another way to help our native bees is by planting native plants: http://www.natureconservancy.ca/en/blog/gardening-with-native-plants.html#.XVwA2eNKjDc