Many visitors to public gardens probably come more for the blooms than the bees. In fact, many might even consider an encounter with bees to be decidedly not on their to-do list.
However, the visitors to J.C. Raulston Arboretum’s Raulston Blooms! event in Raleigh on Saturday were treated to a different perspective–there are a lot more bees out there than the honey bees and bumble bees most folks think of, and most of them are–surprise!–pretty friendly. And useful to boot.
Frank lab members April Hamblin, Margarita López-Uribe, and Elsa Youngsteadt, along with Jeremy Stone from Dr. Hannah Burrack’s lab, ran an informational booth and spoke with visitors about bees and the importance of native pollinators. Native bees are really great and important pollinators for gardens and wild plants. Many of them are solitary–they don’t live in large colonies like the introduced honey bee.
Wild bees nest in the hollow cavities of stems and reeds, rotting tree trunks, and bare soil. However, in urbanized environments, these bee nesting resources are far less abundant.
That’s where bringing the bees to the masses comes in. In addition to their native bee specimens and displays about what crops are bee-pollinated, the Frank Lab team also had materials (bamboo sticks cut so that one end is open and the other closed, and zip ties) on hand for the visitors to make their very own “bee condos” to support native bee populations at home. Everyone seemed to think this was pretty awesome, and the team ended up giving away all of their bamboo by the end of the event. Hopefully that means lots more homes for native bees around Raleigh and lots more folks thinking about providing for them.
April Hamblin authored a previous post with more details about the creation of bee condos and the biology of the solitary bees that inhabit them, and you can find additional information on constructing your own bee condo here.