Bee hotels, bee stops and a honey highway are some of the techniques the Dutch are crediting with keeping their urban bee population steady in recent years, after a period of decline.
Last week, more than 11,000 people from across the Netherlands participated in a bee-counting exercise as part of the fourth edition of the national bee census. The results are encouraging.
Recent years have seen the Netherlands subtly adapt its cities to make them more hospitable to pollinators. Bee hotels in parks and gardens, green roofs on bus stops, and wildflowers planted along grass verges are among the tactics deployed to address declines in bee numbers.
Koos Biesmeijer, head of Naturalis, a biodiversity charity behind the survey, said those efforts appear to be paying off.
The Netherlands is the world’s second largest exporter of agricultural products, after the US. Recognising the crucial role played by wild bees in the pollination of food crops, especially fruit and vegetable plants, a national pollinator strategy was announced in 2018, to create increased opportunities for “bed and breakfast for bees”. The strategy includes 70 initiatives aimed at creating more nesting sites for bees and strengthening their food supply, in the process enabling nature and agriculture to coexist, reports the Guardian.
Dutch cities have certainly been doing their bit. Amsterdam has been working on various bee-friendly initiatives that include putting up “bee hotels” (a collection of hollow plant stems or thin bamboo that provides cavities for solitary bees to nest), replacing grass in public spaces with native flowering plants, and stopping the use of chemical weed killers on public lands.
Meanwhile, Utrecht has been building bee stops - bus stops with their roofs covered in native plants - that attract bees and absorb dust particles and rainwater. Since 2018, 316 bee stops have been installed.
Another valuable innitiative is the Honey Highway, an inspiring venture that collaborates with municipalities to plant wildflowers in the space available on the sides of highways, railways, and waterways, thus ensuring food and shelter for bees.
What you can do to help bees, wherever you live:
Do Less: if you have a lawn, you could either (or both) set aside an area to grown wild or mow the grass less to allow native wildflowers to appear.
Small is Good: large is obviously better, but if you've only got a balcony for a pot or other small space (like a window sill for a window box), plant something that pollinators adore, like lavender. Check out the Bumblebee Conservation Trust for more ideas.
Be Organic: pollinators hate pesticides! They're harmful.
Bee Hotels: either create one by collecting a pile of bits of wood (and if the bees don't like it, plenty of other insects will), or design yourself a funky, modular bee hotel from Ikea.
Be Diverse: planting a variety of native flowers will be especially good news for pollinators and, if possible, ensure that something is flowering in each season so that pollinators always have a food source.