Construction, Deconstruction, Bee Construction

As residents of Vancouver, we deal with what seems like the incessant morphology of our communities and neighborhoods. Where once there was a block full of character houses, a soon-to-be townhouse complex. In the last 10 years, over 700 single-family homes have been demolished in the Marpole-Oakridge neighborhoods alone. Construction, renovations and demolition have serious impacts not only on the experience or vibe of a neighborhood community, but can greatly disturb the natural environment and habitats of various animal and insect species. Bees, of course, are no exception to the detriments of ongoing construction. There are over 450 species of bees living in BC, and the loss of their habitat is of concern to their success and survival.

One of the many benefits of working with the Border Free Bees team is the knowledge I am gaining about bees. Beyond the typical image of the honey bee hives, I did not realize until recently that most bees build their nests in the ground, or in preexisting nests and hollows in nature.  This includes bumble bees, sweat bees, hairy-belly bees (yes, this is a real thing), mining bees and even the honey bee.  So before digging up your front yard, cutting down a tree, or even mowing your lawn, it would be wise to check for bees nests not only to make sure you are not inadvertently destroying their home, but to avoid being stung by a swarm of bees attempting to defend themselves.

Did you know? When honey bees sting, they leave behind the stinger barb as well as the stinging apparatus, which includes the venom sacs, lancets, stylus and abdomen. The honey bee will die as a result of this abdominal rupture. It is best not to disturb bee hives unless you have the proper attire, are familiar with bees or have supervision. If you are stung by a honey bee, make sure to remove the stinger immediately.

As some bees do nest in hollows, fence posts, or bird-nest boxes, you can promote bee habitats by building bee hotels, a space where bees feel safe, are out of harms way and won’t be subjected to landscaping or your weekly mowing schedule. These are very simple, low-maintenance structures with holes drilled in the front. They can be made with varying designs, materials and sizes and make excellent DIY spring/summer projects for your garden. My parents made one recently, complete with wayfinding.

Solitary bee hotels can be made from a nesting block (a wooden block with smooth holes drilled parallel to the grain, as shown above) or stem bundle (a bunch of tubes closed on one end and bundled together with string or held together in a container, as shown below). Border Free Bees will be hosting bee hotel making workshops in the near future, so don’t forget to check our events page for upcoming workshops at the Fieldhouse.

Beyond the construction of a bee hotel, the Elle Lab at SFU has some very helpful suggestions for creating a pollinator sanctuary in your garden, including long-blooming flowers, attractive colours, large patches of flowering plants and allowing dandelions, clover and other weed-like plants to grow more freely. (For more information about attractive plants to grow in your garden, visit their website.) We can all do bees the small favour of making communities and yards more attractive, ensuring they continue thriving and pollinating our fruits, vegetables and flower gardens.

More useful links:
Gili, Enrique. “The Secret Life of Native Bees.” IFLScience. IFLScience, 12 June 2015. Web. 15 June 2015.

MacIvor, J. Scott, Laurence Packer. “‘Bee Hotels’ as Tools for Native Pollinator Conservation: A Premature Verdict?” 18 March 2015. Web. 15 June 2015.

“Native Plants for Native Bees.” Bee Friendly. Web. 15 June 2015.

Sedgman, Elaine. “Native Pollinators.” Kamloops Beekeepers. Web. 15 June 2015.