Save the Bees From Extinction! You CAN Do It.

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Introduction: Save the Bees From Extinction! You CAN Do It.

About: I am a stone mason. My hobby is making new solar cooking and gardening stuff. I have used solar heat to cook soil for a couple of years. In mother earth news in January, i read that their compost expert does...

In North America 4 THOUSAND  types  of bees are disappearing! 
Some are extinct already. 
This is a NEW method to make bee habitat.
  Colony collapse disorder is hard to blame when most bees are solitary! 
Thats right, most types of bees live alone. 
One big reason that they are disappearing is habitat loss. 
This instructable suggests ways to provide solitary bees with brood space and overnight shelter in an attempt to replace some of that lost habitat.  So far it is working much better than I expected.

Step 1: Cob and Rods and Stems and Things

I have worked on since spring is to make blocks of cob (sand clay water and straw mixed to a gooey constituency  and let dry.  What I did was to get various different sizes of metal rod and push them into a block of wet cob and then let it dry for a couple of days.  Before it is completely dry, I take out the rods and this left holes for the bees.
I show a couple of the blocks here.
It worked and there are at least 4 types of bees living in the block.
I recently discovered that solitary bees burrow inside old raspberry canes!
So one really easy thing you can do to help the bees is to bundle up old raspberry canes and leave the bundle in a dry south facing location.  I am sure the bees will find them, burrow into some and leave some bee babies to hatch out next spring.

Step 2: Cob and Bars and Stems

I layer the bars and stems  in the cob and try to pack as many sizes and types of stems as possible. So I use dill, weed stems, cicily stems, grape vines, and brassica stems  that have gone to seed.
Anything hollow or with a pithy middle.

Step 3: Shelter, Brood and Success!

I attach some pictures of different types of bees that enter the holes in the cob and that enter the stems. I made one ugly cob and stem block last week and the bees are starting to use it now. There are about 5 types of bees using the cob blocks. The wasp mimic uses it for shelter at night, a bee about the size of the orchard masons uses it for brood. A green bee seems to use it for brood. A tiny black bee uses some small and medium holes and a large brown bee uses it too.  Today, 3rd august, tiny bees were swarming a little near the cob and stem block and a large bee used one of the front holes.

Step 4: Links Other People Make Bee Habitat Too!

I just found a few really good links!!  (August 2011).  One is in German but it has TONS of pictures that really help explain what is going on. (It's kinds freaky because some of it is so similar to some of the stuff I did). It is on a much larger scale than anything I did and definitely worth importing to North America.
http://www.wildbienen.de/wbs-bsta.htm
And another is in English  http://www.foxleas.com/bee_house.htm

http://resonatingbodies.wordpress.com/ seems to be artists and scientists coming together to make beautiful bee habitat.
http://www.flickr.com/groups/1407357@N20/ is pictures of home made bee and wasp houses.
 Don't be afraid of solitary wasps, they rarely sting, "she who runs away, can lay an egg tomorrow" and all that.   Its the sterile frustrated social wasps and bees  that cannot lay eggs that do most of the stinging.
You can just bundle teasel stems, or raspberry canes or any hollow stem or reed and produce bee habitat. http://www.permies.com/permaculture-forums/520_0/critter-care/orachard-mason-bees   Dave from Camas, Washington has been bundling teasel stems for several years and some of his pics are at the link above. And they work!
http://www.cirrusimage.com/hymenoptera.htm   Bees wasps and ants of north America
It should be noted that wasps, even Yellow Jackets perform pollination.  I have seen them work hard on dill. Those yellow jackets also spend a lot of time eating aphids and caterpillars on trees. So in the ecosystem, they are an important part of the puzzle.
Here is a nice link to the solitary bees of the UK http://www.moraybeekeepers.co.uk/solitary_bees.htm
A guy in Toronto has just identified 19 NEW species of bee.  Which means 19 more species of bees to save!  (I think the thing in their picture is a hoverfly, it is hard to see but bees have 4 wings and a long tongue). The link is here http://www.treehugger.com/files/2010/09/new-bee-species-discovered-during-downtown-toronto-commute.php



Step 5: One Year Later!


I had hoped to post pictures  a week or 2 ago but the shutter broke on my camera and everything was over exposed. New camera now but no dates on the pictures.   The cob bee blocks were very successful.  Almost all the holes were filled, mostly in the spring of the second year. The bee vase seens less successful but I know that bees are still using it regularly. They have burrowed into the raspberry stems, vine stems and dill weed. Some have also used the cob holes.

Step 6: Save Me From the Rain!

It rained 6 or 7 mm today 22 August 2011 (first rain of the month) and the poor bees just hid and waited it out in any holes that did not have brood in them.   Beats hypothermia, eh?  Here are screenshots from the camera to show them waiting it out. It is just one picture but I zoomed parts of it to show the little bees.  If you look carefully, you can see some holes with brood in them too. (capped off with mud) or you can just read the image notes.

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    120 Comments

    Nice! It would be cool to set up a bee-cam nearby to see them hanging out there.

    1 reply

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qCAPJbBrJaw
    Not a bee cam, just a few minutes with a mini dv camcorder but as you can see, they are using the vase! The really neat thing to me is that the bees are doing unexpected things. I did not know that they would go into the dill stems. (But I put them in anyway) I certainly did not expect that some bees would PREFER to tear out the pith from dill even thought many of the easy to occupy holes are just sitting there waiting to be used. A year ago, I did not even know that these little black flies were bees! And 6 months ago, I thought wool carder bees were wasps. Useful experiment and it has expanded my knowledge. Hopefully it will do the same for others. Brian

    I sit 2 ft from flowers where bees (and wasps) are gathering pollen or nectar. I didn't know there were wasps that gathered nectar. I never have a problem with them getting aggressive. Except the leaf cutter bees are very curious and will sometimes zip once around my head. Then they are satisfied I'm not a giant bee and I'm not trying to take their territory. Leaf cutters can get in quite a scuffle over a blooming sunflower though! lol.

    1 reply

    I have seen wasps gathering nectar too. Especially on dill flowers but I have also seen "carder bees" that look very much like wasps, collect nectar too. Especially from toadflax. They seem to love that flower. I have also seen the adults of "rat tailed maggots" (a type of hover fly) which look like and fly through the air just like wasps, feed on flowers too. All may not be as it seems in nature! The adult rat tailed maggot, in my locality, is an astonishingly good wasp mimic. Thanks for the comment Brian

    Interesting ible. Seems like it would be a good idea to add to the north wall of a greenhouse. Combining thermal mass with a habitat for beneficial insects to your garden. I am alergic to honey-bees and many other insects. Unless I'm F***ing with them I rarely have a problem though. I commend you for taking action toward building a wildlife habitat and encouraging others to do so.

    1 reply

    I have never been stung by these ones. Many don't sting at all and the rest only sting if there is a complete accident where you crush them. The bad stingers are the social wasps, hornets and honey bees, They gang up on you because they have the numbers. These ones run away because they don't! They are solitary or very loosely social. (they tolerate each other and avoid conflict).

    Take a bucket, INflate a baloon inside with a pencil in your hole and fill around with cement.
    2 days after, explode the baloon. Keep theninside or try pull it out.

    Extinction..? Lol no, you mean reduction in numbers in the big cities right? I live in Montana and bees are everywhere. There's thousands of honey bees and bumble bees in my back yard.

    7 replies

    Bees are declining everywhere, even in rural Montana. It is both in numbers and types of bee. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bee has info about different types of bees.

    Well, I don't claim to be an expert on the matter. Nor do I want to research it, but in my opinion species naturally declines and rises over time. 3-4 years ago the Wolf population in Montana was fairly scarce for a while. Now there are way too many and farmers are complaining that the wolves are eating their cattle. So, yeah. All I'm saying is I'm not too worried about it.

    user

    This is not a "natural" decline, it's a decline fostered in part by the use of harmful pesticides.

    The only reason the wolf population is doing better is due to environmental organizations like EarthJustice (http://www.earthjustice.org/) taking action in the courts and other places to protect the wolf. It is not due to a natural "decline and rise." If people who care didn't shove back, those who don't care would wipe out the wolves and lots of other species.

    We are in the 6th great extinction event on this planet. "Fairly scarce" and "way to many" wolves is hardly objective. I doubt that the wolves think there are way too many of them. There is nothing natural about the bee decline worldwide (not just honey bees) Many bee extinctions over the last couple of decades is just the start of their extinction event. A species cannot rise from the dead.

    there is little correlation between globally declining numbers and your backyard numbers.

    Whenever some species decline, others prosper. You may be seeing the beneficiaries of the many species in decline. The decline in bee species is well documented across the US

    I did this in a park (away from people incase they harmed the bees) and forgot about it. A few months later I found it where I left it (hung from a tree) full. I didn't get to close but the field is full of flowers :D

    No chance yellowjackets can take up residence in there, is there?

    1 reply

    I don't think so. They require a big space and this is many small spaces. I think it would require too much energy on their part. This year I have moved about 5 km to a different house and I took my bees with me. (Bees are still using it). At the end of last year leafcutters were using some of the lower stems. What incredible fliers! My new place is generally windier so probably not as good as the old one for bees.
    Brian

    Following your foxleas.com link in Step 4, I see that they recommend moving the habitats in winter to keep them from getting waterlogged. Are you doing this, or have you come up with another solution to keep them dry over winter?

    Also, do the holes have to be circular? Will solitary bees use hexagonal or triangular holes?

    The only thing harming them is people with fly swatters. And that doesn't do much. Oh yeah, and when they build a hive on your house, what do you think we are gonna do, get stung whenever we go outside? I mean, they have tons of places to make hives anyway, even with habitat loss. Despite having a terrible fear of bees, I know that the world needs them. But you don't need to make hives for them... If you like them then let them make hives on your house.