Bee numbers are dwindling, especially in the UK, and that’s bad news for pretty much everyone who eats food. A team of researchers from Lancaster University have hatched a plan to boost numbers with 3D printed bee homes, which they hope to distribute to the public as part of a bee-awareness outreach effort.
The researchers have taken advantage of the increased interest in nature during the pandemic and have designed the world’s first webcam-equipped “BeeBox”, which will not only encourage people to show some bee-love, but will also allow researchers to gain insights of bee-life never before seen.
The bee-homes, which will be printed with recycled plastic, are designed to be mounted on trees or on the ground, as different bees have preference to living in trees or at ground level.
“One of my biggest bugbears about bee conservation is that we are always planting more food for them, but rarely doing any work on providing nesting sites for wild bees. These beeboxes are going to address that for agricultural and urban areas.” said Dr Philip Donkersley, bee specialist at Lancaster University.
You can see the printed BeeBox in the photo below.
They are designed to provide a comfortable environment for queen bees, so their hives will develop. Use of pesticides in green areas and intensive agricultural processes in the UK has led to decline of most of the UK’s 25 native species of bee.
Thanks to interest in beekeeping lately, the honeybee is the only bee in the UK that has increased in population. The rest are in decline, with eight being endangered, and the country has seen the extinction of two bee species in the last 80 years.
“This concept of ‘save the bees’ is very popular at the moment with the public,” said Donkersley.
“This is about capitalising on that. Everyone is aware that bees are in trouble. This is a way you can directly help [bumblebees] and also get something out of it, because you can watch them and see what they are doing.”
The researchers have already set up four prototypes on a farm, and have been monitoring the bee activity via infrared webcam (so there is no need to light up the box with visible light).
You can view videos at the project channel at this link.
The BeeBoxes are sturdy and rugged enough to resist the outdoors, and can therefore be developed in a variety of places, even buried underground.