Florida has more than 300 bee species and one Florida man is making sure they have a home -- in bee hotels.
Native Florida bees will have a new place to rest and procreate thanks to an effort to place bee hotels across the county.
The Florida man behind the effort is Bo Sterk, a master craftsman beekeeper and president of the St. Johns County Beekeepers Association.
Florida has more than 300 bee species, Sterk said.
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Sterk used a grant to buy about two dozen bee hotels, and he recently started placing them around the area.
The bee hotels are for native bees that burrow and lay eggs in cylindrical things such as bamboo. The hotels are filled with small cylinders that allow the bees to propagate and move on, he said. The plan is for the public to get involved in tracking bees that they see.
“Using the iNaturalist app, which is a really cool app ... you (take a) photograph and it will actually identify the insect and actually GPS-coordinate it,” Sterk said.
The European honeybee usually comes to mind when people think of bees, he said. But there are many native species of bee that live and act much differently than the honeybee.
Native bees tend to live solitary lives, as opposed to colonies of honeybees. But they’re still big pollinators. Some of them live in the ground. Some live in tubes, such as bamboo or cane — that’s where the bee hotels come in.
″(Bee hotel has) just been a generic term for all these native bees that are solo,” Sterk said.
“They wouldn’t normally nest together, and now we’re actually putting them together in a hotel.”
One location to benefit from the bee hotels is Dr Robert B. Hayling Freedom Park in Lincolnville.
Sterk placed a couple of bee hotels in a park in Lincolnville on Wednesday. They cost about $50 a piece, he said. The native bees will benefit plants in the park.
The Lincolnville Neighborhood Association recently led an effort with help of city funds to place more than 300 plants in Hayling Park, said Denise De Clair, secretary of the neighborhood association.
The new plants include dune sunflower, cordgrass and blanket flower. The group chose the plants with the help of a native plant consultant.
De Clair knows Sterk, which is how the bee hotels got incorporated into the project.
“It fit in perfectly with the project. It will help bring awareness of other native bee pollinators,” she said.
Sterk said he plans to place more bee hotels in other parts of the county, such as Hastings.
Among his many activities in the bee world, Sterk responds to complaints about bees and removes feral bees. He urges people to not kill bees. Instead, people can call the St. Johns County agricultural center with concerns.
If bees are swarming on something, they’re usually just on a journey to somewhere else, he said.
“They actually have a big discussion,” he said. “They argue about it. It’s actually a democratic system. They bite each other’s wings. It’s a huge democracy that goes on within the colony.”