June is a rather special month for Discovery employees, as the entire, global team simultaneously takes part in a day of giving back to the community, known as Impact Day.
This year, the volunteer project that I chose to participate in involved making bee hotels with a local school, Granton Primary.
I didn’t really know much about bee hotels or how to make them before Impact Day, so it was surprising to me to learn just how simple it was.
Firstly, 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 unraveling, and then cut down so that when each tube was stood up inside the bottle, they would be shorter than the bottle’s edge. Apparently this means the bees will lay their eggs inside the protection of the ‘bee hotel’, rather than in an exposed bit 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 their pupils 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 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 fewer suitable nest sites and fewer wild flowers. There has also been an increase in pesticide use in the UK. 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 garden. The paper tubes will need maintaining (replacing) at the end of the summer, but again, it really is simple!
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 (who I met at the UK Blog Awards in April). 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 with Discovery Education UK, of learning from pupils!