Last summer, 31-year-old Jamie Hutchison was listening to the radio when an expert from the RSPB (a leading wildlife conservation nonprofit in the United Kingdom) was on the air, responding to several callers' concerns about slow, seemingly sick or tired bees crawling on their lawns.
The expert explained that, due to the decline in the UK’s bee population, the bees that remain are overworked:
Many people keep seeing bees lying on the ground and assume they are dead but chances are they are having a rest. Much like us, a sugary drink could boost their energy levels and a simple sugar and water combination will be a welcome treat.
Hutchison heard this, and worried. "An egg cup full of sugar water is OK," he thought, "but we get a lot of spring and summer showers in the UK (there's more rain than sunshine in our glorious British Summers) and the sugar water will be replaced with regular rain water within a day or two."
He started reading more about bees: their disastrous decline, due to the mysterious Colony Collapse Disorder, their importance to our food supply (if every single bee disappeared, he read, humanity would also die out within four years), and their preferred habitat, which is fast disappearing in our concrete cities and manicured gardens.
And then Hutchison started drawing. His Bee Station is designed to provide an ideal nesting and refuelling site for two species of bee, Bombus pratorum and Bombus horotorum, which nest for 14 weeks.
At the Bee Station site (tagline: "There is no plan bee!"), Hutchison explains that "an earthenware ball provides a perfect environment for nesting bees (bees often try to nest in little holes in brick and stone) while recesses within the 'feet' of the Station hold sugar water reservoirs." In addition:
A bee 'landing platform' in the center of the base also pushes the nesting material up out of the way and keeps it nice and dry. Air ventilation holes at the back of the Station help provide plenty of oxygen while the ball design ensures rain water rolls away keeping your new bee family snug and toasty inside.
At roughly 8 inches in bright white diameter, and with a price tag of $65 dollars, to a certain extent, a Bee Station resembles an expensive UFO hovering in your flowerbed. Still, the thought of happy bees, drinking pristine sugar water and nestling in dry hay, should overcome any conscientious gardener's reluctance. And if your hard heart is not convinced, just consider it an investment in the value of the bees' pollination services: In the United States, these have been estimated as being worth at least $220 billion per year.