I missed National Pollinator Week earlier this month, but every week should be pollinator week! No more procrastinating! I am going to get busy and make some bee houses for my yard.
If you haven’t heard by now, bees are in trouble. While we may think the trouble extends to large agriculture operations, habitat destruction, and other bigger environmental issues, and that we can’t do anything about it on a personal level, we can take a DIY approach towards correcting some of the problems by making bee houses. Don’t be afraid of buzzing creatures, as they are the little guys that pollinate your flowers and vegetables. As we cultivate our landscapes, we should take it upon ourselves to be responsible land stewards and do our part in taking care of the environment and all of the creatures that live in it.
I learned more about bees and backyard conservation at this year’s Birmingham Audubon Mountain Workshop. The camp is for adults and young naturalists, and it is held at a beautiful camp on Lookout Mountain in Mentone, Alabama. Instructors range from biology professors to local naturalists, to art instructors, to folklorists. Some topics of the workshops include primitive pottery, botany, ecology, edible plants, reptiles and amphibians, bird identification, folk graveyards of Alabama, gardening for wildlife, fossils, lichens, moths, butterflies, wetlands, and bees. The camp is most fun, and I learn so much every year.
Dr. Malia Fincher from Samford University led workshops (one for kids and one for adults) on how to make bee houses for wild native bees. During the workshop, she talked about the mysterious disappearances of honeybee colonies receiving a lot of attention in the media and by researchers, and explained that many species of native pollinators are also likely to be in decline. She further explained, “These native bee species are vulnerable to many of the same threats facing honeybees: diseases, habitat loss, pesticides and other man-made chemicals in the environment, and, in the long term, climate change. Residential areas can contain many of these threats to pollinator populations, but may also provide much needed resources for pollinators.”
This is where the DIY approach comes in handy. Malia explains, “Many people are reluctant to encourage flying, potentially stinging insects to take up residence in their yard, but gardens and yards can provide important refuges, nesting sites, and food for native pollinators. Residential areas often provide a variety of nectar-rich flowers, and because homeowners usually provide water for these plants even during a drought, they can provide food sources for pollinators when nectar from wild plants may be in short supply.” She offers another DIY project as well, “If you add a water source, which can be as simple as a tray of pebbles and water, and some nesting sites, you can make your yard a pollinator-friendly habitat.”
Making a bee house is a simple and fun family project. For the workshops, Malia brought large vegetable cans and asked participants to fill them with materials that may be used as nesting cavities. Wood blocks, wooden dowels, paper tubes (students used pencils as a form for wrapping to make paper tubes), paper drinking straws, and bamboo were some of the things she brought for the fillers. All of the materials were cut the same length to fit flush within the can. Holes were drilled into the wood using a long drill bit. After the can was filled, and holes were drilled, the outside of the houses were decorated and string was attached for hanging.
Have you ever made a bee house? How do you encourage pollinators to visit your yard?