Hotel boom to boost bees

By on 14/07/2009 in News

Birmingham City Council has come up with a colourful way to help save endangered bees this summer - by opening dozens of hotels across the city!

With a cross party group of MPs calling for more help to save endangered honeybees, bee hotels have been incorporated into the city's Britain in Bloom Floral Trail.

Earlier this year, the government announced a £10million initiative looking into the decline of bees, butterflies and other insects across the UK.

And, working in conjunction with the OPAL (Open Air Laboratories) network on the West Midlands Buzz project, Birmingham City Council aims to play its part in halting a dramatic fall in the country's bee population.

In addition to sites along the Britain in Bloom Trail, bee hotels have also been given to allotment holders and schools across the city.

The number of bees in the UK fell by up to 15 per cent over the last two years while the population of butterflies and other insects is also down.

The reason for the sudden decline has been blamed on a number of factors; from climate change to a mysterious condition know as colony collapse disorder. It is causing increased concern because bees are essential for the pollination of fruit and vegetables and most wild plants, so providing the vital link in maintaining the wild food chain.

OPAL West Midlands are carrying out a number of research projects to try and understand how the environmental quality of green spaces and the layout of the urban landscape influence the biodiversity of the bee community.

They are looking at whether the biodiversity of flowering plants in a green space influence the biodiversity of the bee community living there and whether the biodiversity of the bee community is higher in less urbanised areas.

Background

With modern building materials meaning bees are finding it increasingly difficult to locate nesting sites, bee hotels provide much needed nesting sites for bees to lay their eggs.

The West Midlands Buzz project will look at the factors influencing the nesting success of bees. Adults build nests in a wide variety of situations (e.g. in tunnels in the ground, in hollow plant stems, and even in empty snail shells!), and stock these nests with cakes of pollen and nectar on which they lay their eggs. Research will focus on species of bee that naturally nest in tunnels in wood and soft stone, but also use artificial materials. The nests (hotels) to be used have been designed and constructed by CJ Wildlife and are cleverly made so that you can open them up to look inside the nest tubes to see the nest cells constructed by the female bee, and the silken cocoons of the larvae. We will be recording the different species of bee that use these bee hotels, and the number and size of cocoons in them.

The current widespread decline in the biodiversity of bee communities across the UK should be of major concern to all of us. We need bee species, because together with wind, they are the most important pollinators of crops and wild plants. The flowers of different species of plant come in a huge variety of shapes and sizes, and need a wide variety of different species of bee to pollinate them effectively. So the future of flowering plants and people is dependent on the existence of a high biodiversity of bee species.

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