Family Fun Activity: Build a Pollinator Hotel
It's National Public Gardens Week! Let's Celebrate Bees and Other Pollinators
To celebrate National Public Gardens Week, we’d like to give some love to one of the most important group of organisms that are essential to our gardens: Pollinators!
This group includes birds, bats, bees, and other insects such as beetles, butterflies, wasps, and dragonflies. These incredible creatures contribute to the survival of about 80% of all flowering plants and 35% of all food crops around the world. In turn, the plants produced through pollination take on even bigger ecosystem services such as biodiversity, carbon sequestration, and transpiration.
The Amazing Bee
Of those pollinators mentioned above, the Bee is the most productive due to their fuzzy bodies and their ability to buzz and shake pollen free from flowers. Maryland is home to over 400 different species of Bees alone! Most of Maryland’s bee species are not the honey bee or bumble bee we’ve come to know so well but are solitary bees. Solitary bees don’t build large, communal hives, but rather, a female solitary bee will build individual nests to lay their pupae.
Make a Pollinator Hotel
However, our native populations are decreasing due to climate change, over-use of pesticides, and decreased diversification of plants.
You can help! There are several ways to help pollinators such as:
build a pollinator hotel out of materials you might already have at home
create a watering station to combat the summer heat
build bat boxes or bird houses
grow your own pollinator garden (we have several designs here)!
Construction Tips for Building Your Bee or Pollinator Hotel
Don't make your hotel too big as this can invite more pests and predators. Spread smaller hotels around your garden in recycled cans with paper straws!
Make sure to protect your hotel from the rain by putting an over-hanging roof. Also, only have one side be open to the outside environment as pollinators don't like their "rooms' to be open from both sides.
Place a wire mesh covering over the front of the hotel to protect your nesting pollinators from birds like woodpeckers.
Make sure your hotel is stable so strong weather can't knock it over.
Keep materials separated as different pollinators will use different nesting materials. You can also color code sections of your hotel to make it easier for the pollinators to locate their "rooms."
Some materials we recommend are logs with small holes ranging from 1/8” to ½” in diameter into the end of each log, spacing them about ½” to ¾” apart. Holes larger than ¼” should be 5” to 6” deep, while holes ¼” or smaller should be 3” to 5” deep. You can also use paper straws, natural reeds, pine cones, gumballs, bark, broken terracotta pot pieces, and bricks.
Exchange used materials with fresh ones every year after winter when your pollinators have hatched.
Additional Information for the Care & Management of your Pollinator Hotels
Winter cocoon care for more involved management https://www.bentonswcd.org/time-clean-mason-bee-cocoons/
More tips for hotel construction https://thehoneybeeconservancy.org/2017/12/09/bee-hotels/
Educational websites for pollination exploration https://xerces.org/ https://colinpurrington.com/2018/06/mason-bee-hotel/
Resources for Maryland Pollinator Species Identification https://beeinformed.org/2013/04/22/know-your-local-pollinators/ https://dnr.maryland.gov/wildlife/Pages/habitat/wabees.aspx
Download a PDF of the Construction Tips & Additional Information Resources