“Bee Hotels and Nesting Blocks: Protecting Pollinator Populations and Enhancing Pollinator Gardens”

Bee hotels are becoming increasingly popular in gardens as part of an effort to support the natural habitats of pollinators such as butterflies and bees. These man-made structures provide nesting places for solitary bees like mason bees, leafcutter bees, and carder bees, which typically nest in old logs or plant stalks.

Ken Johnson, a horticulture educator with the University of Illinois Extension, explained that the concept of bee hotels emerged from the growing awareness of the importance of pollinators and the need to create more pollinator-friendly habitats.

“There are close to 500 species of bees in Illinois, with several of them being species that create their nests in wood, plant stalks and other foliage,” Johnson said. While some bees live in hives, solitary species create their own nests.

Gardeners are encouraged to keep old stalks and wood in their gardens to provide habitats for insects. However, those who do not have this type of foliage can create bee hotels to support bee populations in their gardens.

Once a female bee finds a suitable place, she will create her nest in the tunnels of the nesting block, using mud or plants to create nests and separating the various sections of a tunnel. After laying their eggs, they will cap the tunnel with pollen balls or mud to protect the eggs. The larvae eat the pollen balls as they grow and by winter, they are fully formed adults hibernating inside a cocoon before emerging in spring.

Johnson warned that there is a risk of diseases in nesting blocks, so most should not be reused. Some blocks can be opened and cleaned yearly, but those that cannot be cleaned should be discarded.

Bee hotels can be purchased online or at some garden or hardware stores. Alternatively, many people choose to make their own. A bee hotel is primarily made out of wood and resembles a traditional birdhouse with an open front. The interior is hollow to allow for a nesting block. The structure and blocks can be made from pine, spruce, and oak woods. Cedar can also be used, but it should be seasoned as bees usually avoid the smell of fresh cedar.

The hotel should be placed about three to five feet off the ground with the opening facing south to southeast to allow for maximum sunlight to warm the nesting blocks once eggs have been laid. Hotels should be placed before mid-April when bees begin finding nests and placing their eggs.

Source: myjournalcourier.com

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