There are 4,337 native bee species in North America and Hawaii, and of the roughly 1,437 with sufficient data to assess, 749 are declining, according to the Center for Biological Diversity.
The species that are mostly solitary and ground-nesting play a crucial ecological role by pollinating wild plants and provide more than $3 billion in fruit-pollination services each year in the U.S.
Members of the Moscow High School Environmental Club and the public did their part Tuesday to try to reverse the declining trend by installing about 20 native bee pollinator boxes in the wetlands area of Virgil Phillips Farm Park north of Moscow.
Nicole Xiao, a 14-year-old heading into her sophomore year at MHS, spearheaded the project.
She received $200 from the Ecology Project International Alumni Leadership Award to help fund the supplies for her bee boxes, also called bee hotels. The Moscow Giving Circle and the Latah County Community Foundation funded Tuesday’s event, said Lee Ann Eareckson, MHS teacher and environmental club adviser.
Xiao spent about 20 hours putting the wooden bee boxes together and drilling various sized holes into them. The holes allow the numerous bee species to enter and pollinate.
“She did work hard, because I’ve made these boxes myself and it takes a lot of time,” Eareckson said.
She said Xiao is extremely proactive and is enrolled in her honors biology class this fall.
“She’s certainly a go-getter,” Eareckson said. “She came in as a freshman and was excited about getting involved right away.”
On Tuesday, MHS Environmental Club members and a handful of members of the public completed the boxes by installing roofs on them; cut teasels, a type of plant, to place into the boxes; and put compostable straws in the drilled holes of the boxes.
The teasels and straws provide a narrow tunnel for bees to nest in, Xiao said, like the insects would in a tree with holes in it.
The volunteers then mounted the bee boxes on stakes in the native wetlands area of the park.
“These native bee boxes fit perfectly (in the native wetlands) because then they increase the pollination rates for those native flora and fauna,” Xiao told park visitors.
Xiao made signs with the help of a fellow environmental club member to provide information about bee hotels, the declining native bee population and the benefits of native bee species in ecosystems.
Members of the public were encouraged Tuesday to make their own bee box by packing teasels or straws into a small cardboard tube to allow native bee species to pollinate in their yards.
Xiao said she applied for the $200 grant after Eareckson told Xiao about the declining native bee populations and bee boxes.
“She was really instrumental in helping me get this project started,” Xiao said of Eareckson. “She helped me so much. I would virtually be clueless, honestly.”
While researching, Xiao said she realized the declining native bee populations was an urgent issue.
“A lot of people know about honey bees and that’s great, but honey bees are at a pretty stable position because they have already been domesticated,” Xiao said. “We already have large populations of them but native bee species are not talked about so much and they’re really at risk. So I just thought it would be great to raise awareness about the other bees.”
Garrett Cabeza can be reached at (208) 883-4631, or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.