The world’s population of bees has declined at an alarming rate in the past two years, which is why Dr Adam Bates and his colleagues at the University of Birmingham have been building a chain of 'hotels' for the beleagured insects.
Despite their complete lack of concierge, room service and night porter, the ‘hotels’ are designed to temper the interference of a bees' natural processes, by providing a habitat for which they can grow, breed and feed away from the dangers of climate change, viruses, insecticides and…phone masts…apparently.
The hotels are made of pine and cardboard tubes, are about the size of a bird box and play host to an average of 20 ‘residents’ at a time, producing hundreds of offspring in up to 200 ‘rooms’. The team have been planting them round the farthest reaches of Birmingham, from natures reserves to urban farms and even schools – next year they even plan to start remaking the hotels from recycled car dashboards.
The insect resorts are hardly 5-star nor do they provide much in the way of luxury, but they do offer a slice of safety for the threatened species while allowing Bales and co to study their behaviour: "The bees we're looking at have a fascinating lifecycle," says the Community Scientist. "They don't sting, they're very good pollinators and can easily be observed building and provisioning nest cells.
"The female does all the work, collecting material to make the nests, laying the eggs, and collecting pollen to feed the next generation. Males hang around nests doing nothing but trying to mate with the females. The trade-off is that they are smaller than the females and don’t live as long…"
Adam’s team are working with the Natural History Museum’s International Year of Biodiversity UK to encourage the implementation of further hotels across the UK in 2010. Jack Mills