All About the Bees

So what exactly is the deal with bee houses, motels and blocks? Why are people so keen to help these furry little insects?

We at designist wanted to explore all things bees to see just how important they are and what we could do to help and support them. In primary school we learn how bees help to pollinate our fruit and vegetables but few of us will have thought much more about this in our adult lives. However, one thing that has been significantly harder to ignore in recent years is climate change and the devastating impact it is having on all wildlife, large and small. 

Classed by many as the 6th mass extinction, it is characterised by many different species across the world and of everything shape and size struggling to survive. While the most recognisable would arguably be the polar bear, bees have also been having a hard time of it of late.

In Ireland there are 101 types of bee.The most recognisable would be the bumble bees and honey bees who are hugely social and live in hives; yet these only make up about 20% of our bee species. The remaining are solitary bees.

According to Biodiversity Ireland’s recent report of bees in Ireland, while climate change does pose a threat to them, what is affecting them even more is a rapid loss of habitat. Bees struggle to adapt quickly to environmental changes. 

Solitary bees take a year to pass through a complete lifecycle, and may only spend 2 weeks as an adult. This means they are not able to raise their offspring so the young have to fend for themselves. The female bee makes a nest, lays eggs and leaves food (lots of honey and pollen) and then dies as the cold weather arrives. The offspring stay in this nest and emerge the following spring, ready to look for a mate and begin the whole cycle again.

And this is where the bee hotels come in. There are three types of solitary bee - one that burrows into hard ground, one that lives in shrubs and bushes, and one that lives in small holes in south / south eastern walls. it provides a secure and safe place for the larva to grow over the winter. Another great way to promote these little furry insects is to plant bee friendly plants in your garden. Some bee motels contain sections to plant bee friendly plants to provide lovely food for the new bees as they hatch out.

So seen as we are all in the garden a little bit more these days, why not find some simple ways to make your space a little more bee friendly?

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Don Norman