An Eden Prairie Boy Scout’s bee houses, pollinator gardens across the Twin Cities, and a bee highway in Norway highlight the urgency of preserving endangered native bees. Recent studies show that climate change, as well as pesticides and habitat loss, threatens native bees. This ongoing bee-pocalypse goes far beyond the colony collapse disorder of commercial honeybee hives that first hit the news a couple of years ago. Wild bees, hundreds of native species from big, furry bumblebees to solitary, ground-nesting andrenid bees, pollinate most of our plants, including food crops.
Eden Prairie Boy Scout Will Claridge designed and built two bee habitat houses in city parks, with the help of volunteers he recruited. He told Southwest News that he knows bees “are super important to the environment.” The Southwest News Media article explains:
“According to the U of M, it’s believed there are close to 400 native bees species in Minnesota of the 3,500 species that live in North America. Many of those are solitary bees that live in ground nests or cavities in stems or trees. More than a third of the world’s crop species depend on bee pollination and their service is valued at $20 billion annually in North America.”
In Kansas, structures similar to Claridge’s bee houses are called bee hotels:
“A patchwork of bamboo and paper tubes, with diameters no bigger than a nickel, are stacked artfully inside a 4-by-4 wooden frame near the edge of a public hiking trail in Lawrence, Kansas. …
“The hotel is made for solitary bees that don’t swarm or have a hive like the more well-known honeybees and wasps. So there’s no queen, no workers–just a single bee and its larvae.”
Over in Norway, Oslo’s bee highway is “pretty simple,” according to the Washington Post:
“The Oslo Garden Society has placed flowerpots full of bee-friendly plants on roofs and balconies throughout the city, creating a route for bees to travel through without starving. A Web site shows locals where more flower coverage is needed and encourages them to plant more.
“’The idea is to create a route through the city with enough feeding stations for the bumblebees all the way,’ Tonje Waaktaar Gamst of the Oslo Garden Society told a local paper in May.”
The bee highway sounds a lot like the pollinator garden I walk past a couple of times a week on Cleveland Avenue in St. Paul. I know it’s a pollinator garden because there’s a sign to identify it. But you don’t need a sign to create a pollinator garden — planting clumps of native flowers and limiting pesticides will make good start. If you like flowers and want a reason to add more to your garden, the U of M has good news: “Bee diversity is often maximized in landscapes where 15 or more flowering plant species are present.”