What you’ll need:
• Clean, empty metal can
• About 50 hollow bamboo stakes (available online or at most garden stores); you can also use paper straws if your hotel will be sheltered from weather
• Scissors or garden clippers
• String or twine
• Paints and paintbrushes (optional)
Using a can opener, cut off both ends of the can so it’s open on the top and bottom.
If kids want, paint and decorate the outside of the bee hotel. Solitary bee species—which don’t live together in hives—prefer dark spots to nest, so have children choose dark colors.
Use the scissors or clippers to cut the stakes the same length as the can. Place them inside so everything fits tight and snug.
Tie the string or twine around the center of the container so it can hang horizontally, with the open ends facing sideways, in a spot near a flower patch.
Unlike bumblebees and honeybees, solitary bees don’t form colonies and live in hives, so this bee hotel is the perfect place for a female to lay her eggs. Once she does, she’ll leave some food behind and seal up the nest in the bamboo stake. While there, the eggs will go through the larval and pupal stages before becoming adults after several weeks. Once the weather gets warmer the following spring, the bee swill emerge. Since one female can lay up to 20 eggs, the bee hotel could produce up to a thousand pollinators!
Use these activities to help children learn about bees, their lifespan, and how these important insects interact with nature.
Around the hotel:
• Look for a protected place—like an overhang or awning—to hang your bee hotel, especially if you’re using paper straws. A tree branch could also work for a hotel made with bamboo stakes.
• Use the telescope from Challenge 5 to help kids observe curious bees from a safe distance (and again in the spring with the new bees emerge).
• If kids notice holes sealed with mud or other debris, that means a bee has checked in! Be careful not to disturb the nesting bees, but keep observing it—young bees will emerge the following spring.
Around the flower patch:
• Play close attention to the bees that buzz around the flower patch. Is there a particular flower they’re more attracted to? Do they travel from flower to flower, or linger on a single flower for a long time?
• Investigate the bees at different times of the day. Are more bees working in the morning or late afternoon? Where do kids think bees go at night?
• Use the magnifier from Challenge One to look for pollen, the dusty, yellowish powder usually near the center of the flower.
Now that kids understand the important of bee habitats, inspire children to protect them. Here are some ideas:
• Many kids are frightened of stinging bees and might try to swat or smash them. But by teaching them how important they are to the ecosystem—and that the insects don’t want to hurt humans—children will be less afraid. Try having them draw pictures of friendly bees; older children can attempt taking photos. (This article reveals a secret to capturing fast-flying insects; here’s another on how parents can help kids overcome a fear of bugs.)
• Host a picnic in the flower patch featuring foods made possible by bees, like apples, cherries, guacamole, almonds, melons, and even cheese—since cows often eat pollinated plants. Make bee-themed decorations to bring to your picnic, and talk about how these yummy treats wouldn’t be possible without bees.
• Help bees rest up after a tiring day of pollinating. Have kids place pebbles and stones in a shallow bowl, then fill it with clean water (just high enough so the stones break the surface). Bees will land on the rocks to take a drink and get some rest.