ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOX) — One out of every three bites of food we eat depends on pollinators. Honeybees, bumblebees and other insects, birds and small mammals pollinate over 90 percent of the planet’s flowering plants and one third of all human food crops.
That is why the St. Louis Zoo has recently installed “bee boxes” for these nesting pollinators in five locations throughout the Zoo.
Visitors can see these small, wooden birdhouse-like structures with rows of tiny hollow tubes in Missouri Meadow outside of the Monsanto Insectarium, in the Emerson Children’s Zoo, near the Zoo’s Administration Building and at other locations. These bee homes attract leaf-cutter, mason and masked bees, all species that would normally nest in pre-existing holes in wood made by other species, such as beetles.
Bees create and provision brood cells for their offspring in their nests, so installing these boxes can provide nesting areas that are disappearing in the wild. Like all wildlife, bees are affected by changes in landscapes and climate that cause the loss of nesting sites. For example, the removal of bare ground, dead trees and untidy corners of rough grass eliminate important nesting sites for bees.
“Creating bee boxes will not cause problems for homeowners or zoo visitors,” said Ed Spevak, curator of invertebrates at the Saint Louis Zoo. “We should not be afraid of bees. If we leave bees alone, they will not harm us, and they help us enormously. With 20,000 species of bees in the world, bees are invaluable to the functioning of many habitats and to the birds and other animals that feed on the seeds, nuts and fruits from the labors of these pollinators. Many of the more than 4,000 native bees in North America are far better pollinators than honey bees for crops like alfalfa, clover, tomatoes, peppers, blueberries and squashes.”
The Saint Louis Zoo’s website also offers directions on how to build your own bee nesting boxes, in addition to tips on how to plant pollinator gardens and identification guides for Missouri and Illinois bees.