Chemainus Secondary students have been busily making homes for Mason bees in the Cowichan Valley.

Chemainus Secondary students have been busily making homes for Mason bees in the Cowichan Valley.

New bee homes creating buzz

Homeless Mason bees are getting some help from shelter-building students at Chemainus secondary.That’s where young woodworkers are constructing bee houses for the dwindling insects.“We wanted to help out the community,” said woodworking instructor Demetreos Bourodemos. “And this is a great project — great for the kids and great for the environment.”The bee houses — built by each student during a class or two — are donated to the Cowichan Green Community, which then sells the items at its store, effectively raising cash for the non-profit organization while sustaining Mason bee populations.“Bees are integral to our survival — if we didn’t have bees, the repercussions throughout our food chain would be unthinkable,” said Amanda Reimer, store manager at CGC’s Sustainable Living Centre.Three-quarters of North America’s 240,000 plants require pollination. No bees means an unfathomable hit to fruits and vegetables.“With the decline of both wild and domestic bees all over the world, scientists are baffled and worried about our future, because while there are lots of factors contributing to the decline, scientists can’t pinpoint a direct cause nor can they pinpoint a direct solution to eradicate the threat,” Reimer said.“These students are encouraging bee keeping in the community and throughout Vancouver Island, and based on the number of bee houses they’ve given us, the number of Mason bees that are going to nest inside of them means more chance of increasing the population of Mason bees on the Island.”The bee houses range in size and are sold for $10 to $20. “We sell them in the store and in exchange we donate from a list of materials they suggest to us, so we exchange supplies for the product,” Reimer said of the relationship between CGC and Chemainus secondary. “But really they give us more than we give them because of the time and effort and the wood itself.”Bourodemos’ talented students were busy working on everything from shelves and tables to baseball bats and bocce balls on Wednesday afternoon at the school, where another dozen bee houses were recently finished.“This is important for our environment and food sustainability, obviously, and helps students understand how important this one aspect of our environment is,” Bourodemos said. “And from there, hopefully they branch off and expand on that. This is laying that foundation.”It’s also linking students with the larger community.“The students are engaging in the community in a way that makes them feel they’re doing something that’s so much bigger than themselves, and also exposing them to a bigger issue that maybe isn’t that important in high school, but actually is really important,” Reimer said.Anyone interested in putting up Mason bee houses on their property are advised to place them in a sheltered area, facing east or southeast with ample sun, but out of direct rain or wind.Having a little water or mud nearby helps the Mason bees become more efficient, as the females collect the mud to line their nests when laying eggs.Reimer noted Mason bees are solitary, which means they’ll only sting those who squeeze or step on them. Cowichan Green Community is at 181 Station St. in Duncan.