“Hotels” to protect wild bees in western Mexico

High school students from Jalisco create a refuge for wild bees in order to protect the endangered species
Mexican wild bees nesting - Photo: File Photo/EL UNIVERSAL
12/05/2018
13:10
EFE
Mexico City
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Students from the state of Jalisco have created a “hotel” for wild bees out of organic materials. The installation is meant to shelter these endangered insects in a place where they may improve the pollination process for flowers.

The young students, of between 17 and 18 years old, have developed these hotels with the intention of protecting wild bees and to give them some sort of retribution for the damage that human beings have caused to their nesting places through the felling of trees, and urban expansions towards the countryside, said Efe Lía Quezada, student from Signos high school.

“The main threat to bees is us, it has become harder and harder for them to travel every day from their food supply to their homes. The distance between one and the other has grown because human beings are constantly interfering with their habitat,” said the member from the school’s science and technology workshop.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), wild bees are a crucial element for the pollination of plants and flowers, as well as an overall health indicator for the environment, they also incorporate and promote biodiversity.

In Mexico, there are almost 2000 species of bees that live in small colonies and are considered to be important pollinators of wild plants, and even some crops, explains Jesús Moreno, science professor at Signos high school and expert in environmental education.

“Modern life and urbanization, as well as crop sprays and monoculture, are rapidly destroying their living spaces,” states the professor, who seeks to promote science and ecology subjects among his students.

The students at Signos high school, located at the edge of La Primavera forest in Guadalajara, Jalisco’s capital city, have taken several workshops and done research for several weeks in order to get acquainted with the wild bee’s reproductive cycle, its importance in the food chain, and the dynamics of its habitat.

Quezada explains that this type of bee is different from the apis mellifera (western honey bee), which is known to form large communities to produce honey.

Wild bees are endemic from Latin American countries, they don’t have a stinger and, therefore, aren’t aggressive, they don’t create bee hives or form a social structure, which is why it is so rare to see many of them sharing a common space.

At the “hotel”, these insects are able to spend long periods of time in a safe place where they can build their nests, leave their larvae, spend the night, and protect themselves during cold seasons, which are usually deadly to them.

The refuge is made out of natural materials such as wood, bits of reed grass with hollow spaces that can harbor the species, fallen leaves, and pine cones.

The only requirement is that the shelter should not have any type of glue or chemical since the smell drives the bees away, tells the teacher to Efe Jacinto Velazco, another student who participated in the project.

The materials can be assembled on wood boxes or PET bottles, which are sustainable alternatives.

In less than ten minutes, the “hotel” is ready and can be placed in the garden, on rooftops, yards, or any other open space around the house, preferably with enough sunlight, and some flowers nearby.

“You don’t even have to perform any maintenance, you just leave it in your garden and it’s ready for the bees to arrive. It’s not dangerous because most bees don’t sting unless they feel threatened, and they will not attack you in any way,” Quezada explains. In addition to the “hotels” that the students and teachers have placed outside their high school, the project is replicated through free workshops offered at schools and museums, so that people can learn how to build these refuges and put them in their homes.

“There is usually a misconception that bees are dangerous. The purpose of the workshop was for people to realize that we can also coexist with insects, we can give them their space and support them, just like they support us.” Velazco concludes.

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