Amsterdam, a city that has so much going for it already (did you know they have more bikes than people?) noticed the bee population falling precipitously and decided to do something about it. They planted tons of native plants and flowers, banned chemical pesticides on public lands and put up little insect hotels all over the city.
A bee hotel is a wooden structure with holes drilled through it. It encourages bees and other insects to build nests. Why doesn’t every city do this? Do we have to wait for the Netherlands to be the example for everything?
Until the city you live in figures this out, you can build your own bee hotel for your backyard. This is not bee keeping—we are not milking the bees for honey. We are just creating a friendly environment for wild bees.
Things to keep in mind:
1) Start small.
You don’t need a bee high rise or a bee condominium to start. A small bee hotel is great to start with. If it really does well you can more later.
2) Build it yourself.
Building a bee hotel is not that hard—there are kits you can order. But if you do it yourself, you know you’re using native wood that hasn’t been chemically treated, which is better for the bees and for you, not to mention cheaper. Be sure to build a bee hotel that bees will like—no pine cones, no large holes. Bee hotels are made up of small tubes—kind of like a hive. Place it in a dry environment with full sun.
3) Don’t forget about maintenance!
This is the most overlooked part of installing a bee hotel—or anything really. It’s a lot more fun to bake the cookies that it is to clean the kitchen. Bee hotels should be cleaned at the end of every season, to get rid of dead cells. These will attract mites that will kill the bees come spring. You might want to bring the hotel in for the season.
You can also plant indigenous plants and flowers. Butterflies like those, too. And they’re easier to take care of than imported flowers that may be pretty but are high maintenance. Kind of like that ex-boyfriend you dated in college.
We can all do our part. Save the bees.