22 May 2018

Plan Bee offers lifeline for Oxfordshire’s solitary bees

The University has launched a new and exciting conservation initiative with the aim of providing much-needed accommodation for Oxford’s solitary bees. The bees are vital pollinators but numbers of many species are dwindling, and one of the main reasons is loss of suitable habitat due to factors like climate change and shifts in how we farm the land.

Plan Bee bee boxKnown as Oxford Plan Bee, the project is a collaboration between the Plant Sciences Department and the Environmental Sustainability and Wytham Woods teams within Estates Services. It aims to create a network of new homes for solitary bees all over Oxford and the surrounding area. This involves distributing specially-made ‘bee hotels’ around the buildings of the University estate and also to local schools. The hotels provide bamboo tubes of various sizes for the bees to nest in.

More than 30 of them have now been installed at colleges, departments and other buildings around Oxford, and more are going up. Efforts to get the bee hotels into local schools are also due to start soon. Any local schools or buildings around the University estate that would like to get involved should contact oxfordplanbee@gmail.com.

The boxes do not just provide good homes for the bees; they also provide a research platform for scientists and citizen scientists. Current research focuses on the relationship between bee species diversity and brood success and nest location and surrounding habitat. Over the coming years the nest boxes will also provide long-term data on species type and diversity in relation to climate change. Members of the public interested in participating in the research should visit the project website to learn more. The initiative is one of the first to emerge from the University’s recently-launched Biodiversity Strategy.