Arboretum Installs 40,000 Honey Bees, Hives and Bee Hotels
HomeHome > Blog > Arboretum Installs 40,000 Honey Bees, Hives and Bee Hotels

Arboretum Installs 40,000 Honey Bees, Hives and Bee Hotels

Aug 10, 2023

Northeastern is a university with a lot of "buzz." With more than 96,000 undergraduate applications, and new campuses opening across North America, the place is a beehive of actvity. And this summer, the Boston campus in particular is buzzing—and not because of humans.

The Northeastern University Arboretum recently installed a beehive and a set of bee hotels to help further cement the university as an urban habitat fit for all kinds of plants and wildlife. The hive, located on Richardson Plaza, is home to between 30,000 and 40,000 honey bees, courtesy of Avéole, an urban beekeeping company.

Meanwhile the custom bee hotels, which sit on a green roof between the Mugar Life Sciences Building and Curry Student Center, will provide shelter for native solitary bees to lay their eggs.

"Our whole ethos is to make this an urban habitat supporting birds and other wildlife, and bees and other pollinators are a very important insect and species type in general in natural ecosystems," says Jonathan Bacdayan, a senior environmental studies major and one of two co-ops who worked on the project. "We’re trying to be intentional and go out of our way to make this a space that's welcoming pollinators into the landscape."

The arboretum's efforts paved the way for Northeastern's Boston campus to be officially recognized as an urban bee haven by the Xerxes Foundation's Bee Campus USA Program. It's all part of an effort to educate members of the Northeastern community about the vital role bees play in natural and urban ecosystems.

Bees are nature's gardeners, ferrying pollen from one plant to another, which helps plants fertilize and reproduce. Seventy-one of the 100 kinds of crops that provide 90% of global food supplies are pollinated by bees, according to the United Nations Environment Programme.

"Without them we’d be in a very different world," Bacdayan says.

While the hive will provide a colony of honey bees with a home, smaller native solitary bees like carpenter and mason bees also need a place to lay their eggs and that can be a challenge in a city. That's where Northeastern's new bee hotels come into play.

"You fill the hotels with little hollow-ended reeds or little pieces of wood that have been drilled with different diameter holes and different depths," says Stephen Schneider, Northeastern's chief arborist. "That provides them a place to essentially breed for the larvae to overwinter."

The introduction of Northeastern's bee hotels will also involve a renovation of the ground level green roof next to Curry Student Center. Schneider says it will provide an opportunity to show the Northeastern community the power of this sustainable form of architecture.

"It also means more flowers on campus, which is always good," says Madison Rosen, a rising third-year environmental and sustainability science student and co-op at the arboretum.

Bees are no good without flowers, so the arboretum will also work with campus landscaping services to plant pollinator gardens at both sites. The garden at Richardson already includes pollinator plants like catmint, brown-eyed Susan, coneflower and goldenrod that will appeal to the university's newest residents. The plants are sustainably sourced from Garden in the Woods, a Framingham-based botanical garden and garden center.

"Bringing in that material really helps with biodiversity, and biodiversity is really important for if a disease comes through," says Ashlin Davis, a member of the landscape services team involved with planting the pollinator gardens. "Having good, healthy plants helps to have healthy bees."

Alveole will assist Northeastern with servicing the hive and harvesting honey. More importantly, the company will also take the bee hotels back to their site, where it will remove any tubes that are full of bee eggs, refrigerate them over the winter and bring them back in the spring to hatch on campus. The company will also survey what kinds of bees hatched, what kinds of bees should be using the hotels and then make recommendations the arboretum can implement to attract specific kinds of bees and other wildlife.

"There's so much that is happening in a forest and natural setting, and the urban context is so sterilized even when you plant trees," Bacdayen says. "Adding that natural function back in, even in a managed way, is so cool."

Cody Mello-Klein is a Northeastern Global News reporter. Email him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @Proelectioneer.