Post written by Aelxa Pudlo
Alexa is a rising senior majoring in Environmental Biology at Providence College and a Walsh Student Research Fellow.
Unlike the well known honey bee, many wild bee species are solitary and do not live in a colony with thousands of their relatives. Solitary (and sometimes semi-social, or gregarious) bees burrow into the ground or sticks to create their small nests. Our bee hotels on Westerly Land Trust properties serve as nesting sites for these wild bees. If you look inside the hotels, you will see bunches of cardboard, straw, and bamboo which provide a variety of living spaces for bees. We have painted the hotels bright yellow, blue, and green to attract nesting bees. These hotels may also attract other creatures, so metal wiring is used on the front to keep birds and other animals from preying on the nests. As the summer continues you may start to see bees occupying and filling in the straws as they work to provide a home for the next generation that will continue to pollinate nearby crops and flowers.
If you continue to explore Westerly Land Trust properties, you may also find a series of bee bowls. These bee bowls are a set of bright yellow, green, and white bowls filled with soapy water that trap flying insects. Once the insects are trapped, they are collected (with the help of Westerly Land Trust intern and Providence College student Martha DePoy), taken back to the lab, and pinned. Coupled with observations in the field, I am using the pinned insects to create a reference collection of pollinator species (with a focus on bees) that live in Rhode Island. This collection will serve as a detailed source of pollinator species in the Providence and Westerly area, which can be used to identify live specimens.
There have been few longitudinal studies on pollinator populations. Our bee bowls, hotels, and observational data will help start a long-term look into what pollinators call Rhode Island home and inform future studies on how we can help diverse bee species continue to thrive.