The insect hotel on this lamppost is built with the sustainable and natural materials Douglas wood, bamboo and recycled bicycle tyres. In cooperation with the professional woodworking company, called ‘Werk op Maat’, located in Renkum, this Streetlight Bee&Bee is realised. In this Streetlight Bee&Bee, several wild bees will nest in the bamboo and wood holes. Female bees lay their eggs in spring or summer, whereafter the offspring survives the winter as larvae and emerges as an adult during the next spring. For wild bees to feel at home, we need to create and maintain their habitat in cities. Wild bees need mainly two things for this to happen: they need nesting sites and plants to feed on. Therefore, these Streetlight Bee&Bees are all placed in urban areas where food sources are available, such as plants for the wild bees.To make this Streetlight Bee&Bees attractive for wild bees, several criteria were applied. Firstly, the nesting places for the wild bees are made of bamboo and wooden blocks, as these materials are both very attractive to many wild bees. The holes in the bamboo and wooden blocks in this insect hotel are between 2 and 10 mm in diameter and one side is closed. Moreover, there are no splinters in the holes. This is necessary, because if the holes are too big, small or not smooth, they will not be used as nesting places by wild bees. Therefore, our Streetlight Bee&Bees are produced with care, detail and attention. Because of these criteria, these Streetlight Bee&Bees are an excellent nesting place for various pollinators.
What happens inside a Bee&Bee?
One of the most important insects that enter this Streetlight Bee&Bee are the solitary bees. Wild bees do not receive much attention from the big public and are often overlooked for their pollination and ecosystem services. There are 360 bees living in the Netherlands and only one of them is the honeybee. In contrast with honeybees, wild bees do not receive any care from humans. There is a large variety of wild bee species, including generalists and specialists’ feeders. Almost all wild bees are solitary individuals. Females search for nesting sites and floral resources for their offspring. The main duty of males is reproduction. Most of the Dutch wild bees only live for one generation per year and die before winter. A lot of solitary wild bees are specialist feeders and only live as an adult for a couple of weeks. In this way, competition with other bees is avoided. In the figure below you can see the life cycle of the wild bee.
Moreover, wild bees have a wide variety of nesting sites, using a variety of materials such as clay, reed, wood, stones, trees and plants. In addition, some species nest below ground and others above ground. Many species of wild bees will therefore also nest in this Streetlight Bee&Bee, how wonderful is that! The species of wild bees that may enter the Streetlight Bee&Bee are the Heriades truncorum (‘Tronkenbij), Hoplitis & Osmia spp. (‘Metselbijen’), Megachile ericetorum (‘Lathyrusbij’), Megachile spp. (‘Behangersbijen’), Hylaeus spp. (‘Maskerbijen’) Colletes daviesanus (‘Wormkruidbij’) , Anthidium anicatum (‘Grote Wolbij’) and the Nomadinae spp. (‘cuckoo bees’). If you want to know how you can recognise the bees entering the Streetlight Bee&Bee read this blogpost.
Why do we focus on solitary bees and not honey bees?
Because wild bees are known to pollinate plants more efficiently than honeybees! Did you know that? During the adult stage wild bees are highly efficient pollinators and require fewer individuals to pollinate an area when compared to honey bees. Solitary bees pollinate different types of crops and non-crops that are not pollinated by honey bees. Honey bees can even harm solitary bees, as they often compete directly for the same resources. They can also transmit diseases to other solitary bees or other native pollinators. Furthermore, wild bees are less picky than honeybees. In addition, they collect the pollen less carefully on their ‘scopa’, these are stiff, branched hairs, which are on their legs, under their belly or along the sides of their body, making it more likely that pollen will fall when visiting the next flower, making that flower more likely to be pollinated. Also, solitary bees are very effective pollinators, as some solitary bees carry less pollen in each load, which means they have to travel much more back and forth from the flowers to their nest than honeybees. Because of these additional foraging trips, many more flowers are pollinated. One way to distinguish honey bees from other insect pollinators is through bee hotels/houses. Because, these bee hotels are in fact mostly used by many different species of solitary bees and not by honeybees. Which thus also applied for the Streetlight Bee&Bee. The marketing of bee hotels to promote pollination and conservation is widespread and fortunately spreading, at least in North America and Europe. This is also necessary because these solitary bees, important crop pollinators in agriculturally dominated landscapes and essential pollinators of many wild plants, are in sharp decline worldwide.