Members Area

Better Building for Native Bees


July 22, 2021

Do bees need nurseries? Little bee houses? Cute hotels? The answer is yes.

You may have noticed them popping up in parks—a small structure that looks a bit like one of those little outdoor libraries. The shelves, however, are not filled with books. Rather, there are stacks of small hollow sticks—a bee nursery. Do bees need nurseries? Little bee houses? Cute hotels? The answer is yes. 

The plight of honey bees and the need to protect pollinators has recently garnered a considerable amount of attention. The number of pollinator gardens is increasing and many gardeners have even turned to beekeeping, establishing hives for honey bees. In addition to these efforts, there is increased attention on the almost 4,000 other species of native bees, which are often better pollinators. Honey bees can’t pollinate tomatoes or eggplants for example. So yes, it turns out native bees could use our help with nurseries and homemade structures. 

The Hardy Garden Club in Baltimore, Maryland, has taken a proactive approach to increasing the native bee population by installing an outdoor exhibit in the rain garden they built in Meadowood Park in 2006. The “Hardy” rain garden was planted with water-loving iris and native plants designed to prevent run-off into a nearby stream and subsequently into the Chesapeake Bay. Not content to just install and maintain the garden, the club has also seen it as a way to educate the public about the purpose of a rain garden.

Now the club has added native bee nurseries at the site, along with new signage about the importance of native bees. The display shows photos of several types of bees and explains that the honey bee is actually an import, brought to this country by early colonists from Europe, as a source for honey as well as pollination. The settlers were unaware of the havoc this would create with native species. The competition with the small number of native bees is intense and can also lead to problems fertilizing native plants.   

About seventy percent of all native species nest in the ground, where it’s estimated that lawnmowers may have killed more bees than pesticides might have. Bumblebees are wonderful pollinators—and there are a dozen varieties—often take over an old mouse hole in the ground where they nest in a small colony. Solitary cavity nesters including the Mason Orchard Bee, and the Leaf Cutter Bee, make nests in sticks of dead wood or fallen trees in which they provision brood cells with a stash of pollen. Pristine landscapes and gardens often take away those nesting sites. 

By adding and maintaining the bee nurseries, the club hopes to continue to educate the public on the importance of native bees and encourage others to create their own bee hotel.


See All News