This ‘bee hotel’ at the Galena Creek Visitors Center is an attempt to provide a pesticide-free haven for bees, bugs and other pollinators which are critical to a functional environment in the Sierra Nevada and Great Basin.
Story and photo by Ben Spillman, courtesy Reno Gazette-Journal
It looks like someone built a firewood shelter in front of the Galena Creek Visitor Center.
But on closer inspection it’s more than just kindling stacked under a tiny roof.
Some shelves have terracotta pots tipped upside down on beds of straw. Others are partially enclosed by slotted sheets of wood.
There are stones piled up to the edge of the bottom shelves.
The setup is actually a ‘bee hotel,’ which essentially means it’s designed to attract certain types of bees and bugs that act as pollinators for native forest vegetation. It’s to be paired with what’s billed as a first-of-its-kind-for-Reno pesticide free native garden, located just across the walk from the bee hotel.
The idea, according to builders, is to give native bees and bugs a pesticide free refuge to winter and rest so they can survive and thrive in the surrounding forest.
Elrick du Saillant du Luc, 23, a student at Aix Marseille University, shows Reno-area elementary students the ‘bee hotel’ at Galena Creek Visitor Center. He helped create the project as part of his zoology studies.
It’s important because bees, bugs and bats are critical to the pollination of plants, whether they are crops raised for food or native vegetation that provide habitat for wildlife in forests and deserts.
And pollinators are under more stress than ever before, bee hotel builder say, because widespread pesticide use is hurting their ability to survive and go about the business of pollinating plants.
“Either it kills them outright or it damages their ability to remember how to be a bug or a bee or a bat,” said Sandy Rowley of Bee Habitat, an organization that aims to improve life for bees. Bee Habitat worked with the Great Basin Institute and the Reno/Sparks Association of Realtors on the project.
Much of the work was by Elrick du Saillant du Luc, 23, a graduate student from Aix-Marseille University in Marseille, France.
Saillant, who is studying zoology, is working at the visitor center for degree credit.
“The idea is to develop this type of bee habitat in all of Reno,” du Saillant du Luc said. “We need to bring bees, bugs and pollinators into the city.”
In addition to the bee hotel he’s working on a garden that will consist of pesticide-free, native plants.
By creating the project near the visitor center backers hope to show the public the importance of co-existing with bees and other pollinators. Rowley said the types of bees drawn to the habitat aren’t a danger to people because, unlike honeybees, they’re not protecting a hive.
“This bee hotel is mainly for native pollinators,” she said. “It attracts non-aggressive bees.”
If the working display at Galena Creek inspires visitors to build similar projects at their homes in Reno and plant more pesticide free, native vegetation it could be a boost for people and insects.
“It is changing the idea we need fake-looking, well-manicured lawns,” Rowley said.
This story ran on April 6, 2015, in the Outdoors section of the Reno Gazette-Journal.