by Gabriel Gauthier
During the week of May 7 to 11, 22 high school students took part in a uOttawa mini-course entitled “Biodiversity: Yours to Discover!” offered by Dr. Jessica Forrest and her team of graduate students. The course had pollination ecology as a special focus, and activities included capturing bees with nets, identifying them, and creating a three-room bee hotel (a durable nesting habitat for above-ground nesting solitary bees).
To make these bee hotels, each student was given a 2-by-4 piece of wood, approximately 10 cm in length. Three different-sized holes were drilled into the wood along the 10 cm length. Then, using a torch, students slightly darkened the surface on which the holes were drilled, as an attempt to make the bee hotel appear more natural for these pollinators. Afterwards, the wood was soaked in polyurethane and left to dry for 72 h, allowing for increased durability.
Later during the week, the holes were re-drilled, caulked in black from the back (leaving only one opening per hole on the darkened front entrance), and a small roof was hot-glued on top of the bee hotel to keep rain from entering the “bee rooms.” Finally, a small piece of string was given to each student so that they could hang their brand-new bee hotel on a tree, ideally 50 to 100 cm from the ground, facing a cluster of wildflowers.
Numerous solitary bees, including ones from the Osmia and Megachile genera, will be thrilled to use these brand-new and good-looking bee hotels for reproduction right in the heart of Ottawa! Creating and deploying such habitats (along with planting pollinator-friendly flowers) is easy to do, and it offers an excellent way for our young bee-enthusiasts to engage with bees in a meaningful way!
Gabriel Gauthier is working on his master’s degree in Jessica Forrest’s lab at the University of Ottawa. He is currently examining how bee–plant interactions can affect wild bee offspring production in Colorado.