Each June, the entire, global team of Discovery employees simultaneously takes part in a day of giving back to the community, known as Impact Day.
Every year a variety of different projects are available for Discovery employees to choose from, and this year, I chose to participate in a day of making bee hotels (also called bee houses) with local school, Granton Primary School.
I didn’t really know much about bee hotels, or how to make them, before taking in Impact Day, so it was surprising to me to learn just how simple it is — and how much they help the environment.
The type of bee we were making the bee hotels for — solitary bees — do not live in a hive. Instead, they nest in sandy banks, hollow stems and wood. Bee hotels replicate hollow stems and provide a safe environment for the bees to nest, where they won’t be accidentally disturbed by humans or exposed to predators.
We cut the tops off of 1 litre plastic bottles, securely taping thick tape over the sharp edges (to prevent any of the schoolchildren from accidentally cutting themselves), and then began the process of rolling sheets of paper around a pencil, to keep the hollow tubes as thin as possible.
Once the tube was rolled, the end of the paper was stuck down with sellotape, to keep it from unravelling, and then cut down so that when each tube was stood up inside the bottle, they would be shorter than the bottle’s top edge. Apparently this means the bees will lay their eggs deep inside the protection of the plastic casing of the bee house, rather than in an exposed end of a tube of paper, which a bird can still easily access with its beak. It was important to pack the tubes in tightly, so they wouldn’t move around.
Granton Primary School focus heavily on eco and environment in their studies, and students came armed with information about solitary bees to teach us adults, and had even made quizzes to test our knowledge!
One of the things I was surprised to learn is that solitary bees do not sting! I was definitely under the impression that all bees stung before! But then, I also wasn’t previously aware that there are so many species of bee in Britain either (approximately 250!), so assumed they all had the same characteristics. Turns out, they don’t.
So why is it important to protect bees?
As pollinators, bees help to produce more than three-quarters of the world’s crops, but they are under threat due to a decline in suitable nest sites and fewer wild flowers. There has also been an increase in pesticide use in the UK, which can be explored in the classroom using Espresso’s Key Stage 1 video, Protecting bees.
Of the approximate 250 bee species in Britain, 25% are listed as endangered. It feels so important to do something as simple as making (or buying) a bee hotel, and hanging it in your school playground or garden. The paper tubes will need maintaining (replacing) at the end of the summer, but again, it really is simple!
For more information on bee hotels, take a look at Espresso’s Hotel for bees video, which we used to kick-start our Impact Day project. It explores how scientists at the University of Reading have been using bee hotels.
I loved learning all these bee facts at Impact Day this year, and feel like I’ve only just brushed the surface of the issues that bees are currently facing in today’s world. Fortunately, I came across some further reading on Wildlife Kate’s using Wildlife to learn blog for Michael Drayton Junior School. It just so happens that this week, she’s discussing what happens in a bee hotel, which for me, is a perfect follow up to my Impact Day of learning from (and making an impact with) students!