Campus is abuzz over its newest residents: Orchard Mason Bees

Photo by Kai Ward

By Althea Billings /// Features Editor

Campus is buzzing with activity.  In mid February, local beekeeper and neighborhood partner Josh Hinerfield installed several bee “condos” around campus. This action was coordinated by Amy Dvorak, Senior Director of Sustainability and Communications for Lewis & Clark College.

The species inhabiting the condos is Orchard Mason bees (Osmia lignaria propinqua), a species which is native to the western United States and Canada and are also known to be effective pollinators.

As said by Dvorak via email, the goal of the project is “to support the growth and wellbeing of pollinators, to promote health and biodiversity of the natural areas around LC and in the region.”

The bee houses were installed in the Rose Garden, Tamarack, the Campus Security office and Stewart Hall.

Orchard mason bees are a solitary species who don’t defend their nests in the same way that social bees and wasps would. They will not attack humans unless their nests are directly threatened.

Many pollination restoration projects employ the use of honeybees, but in this case, the choice to use Orchard Mason bees was very deliberate.

Honeybees are not native to North America,” Hinerfield said. “Early colonists brought them to North America. There are about 4,000 species of bees that are native to North America – most of which are solitary bees (like orchard mason bees).  There’s been a lot of media coverage of how Colony Collapse Disorder has ravaged populations of honeybees. Well, native pollinators are in danger as well.”

This project is funded by Hinerfield. He donates a small contribution to the college in exchange for hosting the bees.

“I started raising Mason bees around 2000,” Hinerfield said. “ The bees were so prolific that I needed to find a home for my surplus bees. So, I started selling them. After I recouped my out of pocket costs, I began contributing net proceeds to area nonprofits.”

For Hinerfield, the LC bee condos are a “plan bee” that doesn’t sting.

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