The San Diego Zoo’s Insect House, just down the path from the Petting Paddock in the Children’s Zoo, is an area abuzz with wonder! Terrariums set into the walls showcase stick insects, leafcutter ants, roaches, beetles, scorpions, and spiders, giving you a rare opportunity to marvel at the planet’s spineless wonders. There is even a beehive for a small observation colony of western honeybees, enclosed in glass so you can watch the busy bees in action at certain times of the year.
You might be amazed to discover how much happens inside the hive! A clear tube allows the bees to leave the hive—and the insect house—to gather nectar and pollen from the bountiful blossoms in San Diego. Part of the wall around the outer opening is painted bright yellow to aid the bees in finding the entrance as they return home. What fun it is to watch the bees at work in their hive. Take a moment to enjoy and understand these creatures. There is definitely a great deal more to them than meets the eye!
You may have heard of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), the rapid loss of entire honeybee colonies. A dramatic decline in these pollinators could severely hurt our food supplies. The reasons for the decline are still unclear, but it is believed that the use of pesticides, the types of crops we grow, disease from mites and fungus, and the stress of moving hives long distances for farming might all be damaging honeybee populations. It seems that beekeepers raising bees with organic methods and keeping them in permanent bee yards are not having as much trouble.
Luckily, CCD has not affected native solitary bees. This is good news for us. If honeybees were ever to no longer meet our pollination needs, native bees could be raised to supplement or replace them. Studies have shown it would only take 500 blue orchard bees to do the job of 40,000 honeybees! Many more questions need to be answered and research is ongoing, but it’s nice to know that the native bees we tend to take for granted might one day play an even bigger role in our survival.
What can you do for bees? Try to avoid using pesticides. Plant diverse, native plants in your garden. Provide bee nesting and egg-laying sites. Provide sheltered, undisturbed areas where native bees can hibernate or overwinter. No yard or garden? No problem—you can still be part of the solution by installing an inexpensive “bee block” for solitary bees to nest in.