Build homes for solitary bees
With the exception of honeybees, most bees are solitary creatures. Some 70% of bees live underground, while 30% live in holes inside of trees or hollow stems. Since many solitary and bumble bees build their nests in undisturbed land, schools can keep an untouched plot of land for them in their grounds. “Bee houses and hotels” allow solitary bees like mason bees to take up residence and pollinate your garden. You can also learn how to build your own bee condo and create a better space for solitary bees. Next time you visit Salisbury, check out their bee cathedral in the cathedral café!
Instructions for a Simple DIY Bee House
The beauty of home-made bee houses is that schools can use re-cycled or waste wood and logs and make them fairly cheaply. Fill a wooden box (open on one side) with blocks of wood or small logs into which drill small holes. A variety of solitary bees will use these tunnels as nest sites. The box should be a minimum of 20cm deep, and ideally needs an overhang at the top to keep rain off. A drawer from an old wooden chest of drawers can be adapted for this purpose.
How to Make a Bee Post or Bee Block
An even simpler alternative is to make a bee post – drill a variety of holes up to 10mm in diameter into the side of a thick piece of untreated timber, and fix to a sunny wall or fence. (See photograph). Children should smooth down the entrances to them thoroughly so there are no sharp splinters, as these will put the bees off. New fence posts from garden centres are unsuitable because they have been treated with chemicals, but lengths of very old fence posts are ideal. Again this should be kept in a dry, cool place in winter and brought out in March. If left outside to endure winter rains these small posts can soon get saturated, even with a roof, and this can mean high mortality for the bee larvae as they succumb to fungus moulds.
Start a honeybee hive.
Schools and churches can directly impact the health of the local ecosystem by starting a honeybee hive. Having your own beehive can help children learn about bee biology, bee ecosystems, and improve the environment. Plus, there is the added benefits of bee products such as raw honey and beeswax. Contact your local beekeeping club for more information.
Support a local beekeeper
If schools and churches are quite ready for a hive of your own, children can help save the bees by supporting a beekeeper in your area. Keepers work hard to nurture their bees and better the local community for bees and humans alike. The easiest way to do this is to buy locally-made honey and beeswax products. Many beekeepers use products from their hives to create soaps, lotions, and beeswax candles. Plus, local honey is not only delicious- it may be made by bees that visited plants in the school!