Encouraging Native Bees with Insect Walls

11 October 2009 | Sheds and Outbuildings

honeybee on yellow flower

image from buzzy bee girl  (a great blog about bees)

Bees are on the decline, particularly honey bees.  Without bees and other pollinators, every gardener knows that plants just won’t do what they are meant to.   This summer, I noticed in my own garden the proliferation of squash blossoms that never became zucchini and pumpkins, instead languishing on the vine, unfertilized. I am inspired by insect walls and want to try my hand a creating one of these textural masterpieces.

wild native natural bee wall houses

Bee walls and bee houses can help to bring back solitary, native and stingless bees that, while they do not make honey, will provide the pollination mechanism that is needed to maintain biodiversity and healthy gardens and plants.  Reading about bees, I learned that apparently honey bees are not native to the US. (I had no idea!)

wbs_bs21

wild bee walls bee house

These German bee houses and insect walls were found at Wildbienen (Wild Bee) which with a little google translation, provides a wealth of information about making this visually interesting garden features.   Bee houses and insect walls provide a habitat for these vital garden residents and encourage them to re-populate.

zen industrial ecological sculpture gardenbee walls solitary, native bees

Alternatively these creations by Greg Corman of Zen Industrial in Tucson, Arizona are created from salvaged materials.  Greg uses his scuplture to provide habitats for native, stingless bees (not honeybees).

Blog Comments

Thank you so much for this great post and getting the word out on native bees. It’s great to know that landscape designers are helping the declining bees! Thanks!!

Where do I find detailed drawings/blueprints for these great pieces of art?

wow – I wish I new….I will see if I can come p with something and will psot here if I have some luck….

I appreciate what you are doing. We have also made a wild bee house here in South Carolina, with several types of nesting materials, including clay, hollow reeds, drilled wood blocks and briar stems. Plus we are placing reed and briar bundles in other sites on our homestead.
I note that you say that honeybees particularly are declining – this is not quite accurate. Honeybees have humans to help defend them against pesticide misuse and protect them from parasites and disease, plus take them to better pasturage when needed. Wild bees have very little such help, and I believe they are actually in worse shape than honeybees.
Also the media has hyped the losses of honeybees, whereas they are easy to culture and the losses have pretty much been replaced by the normal channels. Southern commercial beekeepers generally supply a lot of replacement bees to the North, and they have only had to gear up to do a bit more than usual in the past three or four years. For honeybees, the greatest danger of decline comes in the form pesticide misuse, and of aging keepers that are not being replaced.
I’m glad to see you doing your part for the wild bees; perhaps we are the beginning of a movement. We are also doing a lot of planting for the sake of the bees, trying to get a continuous food supply throughout the season.
Please visit our page. I will put your page on our blogroll.

Dave

Dave — so glad that you stopped by !– you clearly are far more knowledgable than I on bee issues, so I appreciate your corrections! thanks – rochelle

This design info is great! I’m a Toronto-based sound and installation artist involved in creating integrated media installations focusing on wild, native bees and pollination ecology – titled ‘Resonating Bodies’. I’m now designing listenable solitary bee habitats/structures which incorporate vibrational sensors (as microphones) and plexiglass viewing windows – this can include walls, sheds, logs, booths, etc. I hope to collaborate with garden designers everywhere! I’ve been collaborating with scientists and other artists, all detailed at our blog/website is resonatingbodies.wordpress.com (and youtube channel). BTW, our blog addresses basic and current pollination ecology issues. And, for the in-depth scoop on what’s currently up with bees worldwide, I highly recommend the upcoming book by biologist Laurence Packer (York University, Toronto, Canada), “Keeping the Bees”; and, the perfect primer is Stephen Buchmann and Gary-Paul Nabhan’s “The Forgotten Pollinators” (Arizona, USA). Sarah

Rochelle

Mersea Island – England

I love these design. My daughter and I have embarked on creating our own habitat wall aimed at not just bees but beetles, lacewings, ladybirds et al. The wall itself is 3 metres wide by 2 metres high divided into 36 ‘cells’ made entirely from scavenged timber and drift wood.Some cells are filled with cut Bamboo, some with logs, some with meadow straw, we have also harvested dry reeds (as used for thatched roofs – they look stunning and are great to work with) the hollow stems I hope will prove attractive to something. A couple of cells I have filled with a loosely bonded sand mix in the hope that masonry bees will be tempted to burrow in. Can you or anyone tell me the ideal diameter size holes to drill in either the logs or mortar material to get the ball rolling?

Hello Rochelle. If you want to attract Mason Bees you should provide 5/16″ holes, but you don’t have to fill them with anything. The bees will collect their own mud to use as divider walls between their brood cells.

While I agree that these ‘insect walls’ are artistically beautiful, they are absolutely NOT providing healthy habitat for native bees, and are truly doing more harm than good. There is no way to clean them, so each year there is a build-up of fecal matter, mites and predators – but the native bees will nest there anyway, and end up mite-infested and weak. Is this the habitat we want to provide for them? [As to the ‘Zen’ Tucson Ecologic structures? They are artistically beautiful, but imagine nesting in METAL in the Arizona desert? Ouch!] Check out these photos that I took a couple of weeks ago, and you’ll see what I mean: http://www.ournativebees.com/galleries/evil-lurks-dirty-nesting-holes

I live in Virginia, on the east coast of the U.S., and am dedicated to spreading the word about how easy it is to raise native bees. . . but only if we go about it the right way.
Please visit my web site if you want more info: http://www.OurNativeBees.com and I applaud you for your interest in native bees!

Thanks for a great post!

I just linked it to my blog:
http://thehighnorth.blogspot.com/

iran / no sprak english / اطلاعاتی جدید در مورد کندوهای زنبوروزنبور داری صنعتی و مدرن میخواستم از شما متشکر هستم اگر مرا کمک و همراهی کنید

Denise, it would be great if you offer alternatives to what you see wrong with this post.

Very cool – will be adding a link to you once I’ve added a few more pages to my bee site on native bees and bee gardens. Thanks

These designs are incredible! I’m working on creating Native Bee Habitat and Curricula Materials for my PhD dissertation. I was wondering If I could get your permission to reuse these pictures in educational materials.

Hi J– I don’t mind you using images, but most are not mine….there are 3 links in the post with the image credits — you shoudl probably follow up with those as well (and you will likely find other links and other images in those places with even more helpful stuff). Good Luck – Rochelle

Excellent! last year I did an instructable http://www.instructables.com/id/Save-the-bees-from-extinction-You-CAN-do-it/ and it is only a few months ago I found out that the Germans have being making bee walls for years! Just like to tell everyone that these bee walls are so useful for self education. Before my little experiments, I never knew that there was so many types of bee. I even have 2 types of digger bee living at the entrance to my home under concrete and in soil beside hawthorn trees. Never even noticed them before I made my “bee vase”! This year the bee vase is still not full but maybe 5 or 6 different types of bee live in it. Including leafcutters and tiny bees that dig into the pith in raspberry canes! It is an amazing thing. I think I would have progressed to bee walls in a couple of years. But really glad that I am not the only nut out there. Brian

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