Close your eyes and picture a bee: chances are it was a classic honeybee buzzing around a hive, right? Alberta’s certainly got lots of those, but there are also over 300 species of solitary bees, which spend their whole lives alone and not in a hive, in the province. While more and more farms and backyard gardeners are embracing honeybee hives, solitary bees are often overlooked—yet they are important pollinators alongside honeybees, and one-third of our food depends on them.
In light of this, the Edmonton and Area Land Trust (EALT)—a non-profit group that protects and stewards natural areas in the Edmonton region—is hosting a make-your-own bee hotel workshop.
“Pollinators are a hot topic right now,” Rebecca Ellis, project coordinator for EALT, says. “We just felt it was a natural fit for us because we conserve habitat which is used by pollinators, and [we’re] just using bee hotels as a focal point to draw in people’s attention—and hopefully get them excited about not only pollinators, but also about habitat in general.”
Bee hotels are akin to a bird’s nest box: they provide a safe place for female solitary bees to lay their eggs. The hotels are essentially a few blocks of wood with holes drilled into them; the bees crawl into these tunnels, lay their eggs, and then seal it off. The next spring, the newly hatched baby bees will emerge. In nature, bees use things like holes in dead logs for this purpose; in the city, obviously there are far fewer places that afford such habitat.
“Putting one in your backyard is not only helpful for bees themselves, but also helpful for your garden if you have a vegetable garden or flower garden,” Ellis explains. “You’re giving the pollinators a place to lay their eggs, and then if you have a garden they can get food from your garden and from the flowers and in the process pollinate your plants more, so that you can have a more successful garden.”
The EALT recently installed bee hotels in a few places around the city, including the John Janzen Nature Centre, the Valley Zoo, the Whitemud Equine Centre, three different schools and Reclaim Urban Farm. The organization is working with various community gardens to get hotels installed at those sites as well.
If you aren’t able to attend EALT’s workshop—which costs $40 per hotel and includes all the pre-cut materials; you just need to bring a cordless drill—Ellis encourages everyone to visit the EALT website (ealt.ca), where blueprints for the hotels are available for download. Additional information about pollinators, as well as about the EALT’s work in general, is also available there.
“When people hear ‘bee hotel’ some people kind of get afraid, so I think an important thing to remember is that the solitary bees aren’t as aggressive as honeybees or other types of bees that are social, because those social bees are defending a hive or defending a colony,” Ellis explains. “A solitary bee is much less likely to sting because they are more valuable to themselves, essentially. … Solitary bees are not aggressive, and [a bee hotel] is safe to have even in a backyard with kids.”
Sat, May 28 (10 am & 12:30 pm)
Avomore Community League (7902 – 73 Ave), $40 (bring-your-own drill)