Frank Patz, center left, Erin Patz, center, and Charlene Patz, all of Perrysburg, right, take a look at the insect hotel set up outside the Horticulture Barn at the Lucas County Fair on Thursday, July 11, 2013, in Maumee. The insect hotel provides a place for bees and other insects to set up shop with the hope that they will help pollinate plants and otherwise contribute to the local ecosystem.
We all know what a bee is, don’t we?
Maybe not so much.
Bet you didn’t know there are more than 4,000 native bees in North America, including 300-400 in our region, ranging from lumbering bumble bees to sweat bees less than ¼-inch long. Most are solitary, unlike honey bees that live in hives and are not natives.
Bet you didn’t know native bees are essential for the reproduction of more than ⅔ of the planet’s crop species and nearly 70 percent of its flowering plants.
Hopefully, you know that their habitats are disappearing, usually succumbing to suburbanization, pesticides/herbicides/insecticides, and intensive farming.
Aware of these troubling facts, bee-lover Karen Wood constructed insect hotels in 2012. She cut a 4-by-4-inch piece of untreated wood into 12-inch lengths and drilled about a dozen holes into the four-inch side. Just for the heck of it, she painted the exteriors and added little roofs, then affixed them on a post in her Bowling Green yard.
Female mason bees quickly found her “nests,” entering the drilled cavities, depositing a bit of “bee bread” (a mix of pollen and nectar) and laying an egg on it, creating a partition with mud, and then repeating until she reached the entrance, which she sealed off. Mason bees are a category incorporating many species of bees. Other categories are leafcutter bees, which compartmentalize each egg-on-bee-bread with leaves, and resin bees that seal compartments with resin.
About 13 months later, the mason bees hatched, whereupon a fresh crew cleaned out the cavities and repeated the procedure.
“I live in hope. I can’t control the rest of the world but I can create a little bit of a sanctuary,” she said.
About 30 percent of native bees nest in cavities often bored into dead wood by beetles; 70 percent lay eggs in the ground.
Kim McCance, of Weston, right, and a man who declined to be named, left, read up on the insect hotel outside the Horticulture Barn.
Ms. Wood also helped build a large insect condo at the Lucas County Fairgrounds with the help of Girl Scouts and 4-H-ers. She used five pallets, setting the first one on a square of landscape fabric slightly larger than the pallet. She laid clay and plastic tiles and bricks with holes in them on the first pallet; then, using spacers at the edges for leveling, the next four pallets were laid. The youngsters stuffed the edges on each side with nesting material such as reeds, dry phragmites grass minus the seed heads (this invasive reed is often found where cattails grow), bamboo stakes, pine cones, and bark. One person tied a dozen wine-bottle corks together and drilled holes into them. To keep it tidy, she stapled chicken wire around the structure.
Pollinator nests can be as simple as a bundle of reeds stuffed into a container such as a can, bucket, tile, old newspaper box, or even tied snugly together with twine and stuck into the crook of a tree or a hole in a fence. There’s a bee hotel near the Pioneer Cabin at Toledo Botanical Garden and a five-inch long by three-inches in diameter reed bundle at the garden’s Bancroft Street entrance, said Amy Stone, educator at OSU Extension-Lucas County.
“It can be easily incorporated into gardens and is something everybody can do to help pollinators,” said Ms. Stone.
Naturally Native Nursery north of Bowling Green has carried simple bee boxes for five years, said Jan Hunter, owner. “People are very intrigued by them.”
To learn more about pollinators, how to make nesting spaces, and the flowers that attract them, go to the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation’s Web site: xerces.org or xerces.org/pollinator-resources-center.
Contact Tahree Lane at firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6075.