Build Session Two — October 8

8:45 a.m. Saturday morning. The hurricane is raging, the wind is blowing and the rain is coming down in torrents. I am the only one outside — after all, who is insane enough to go out in this weather? I am, apparently, and I am off to go build native bee nests in the Maker Space in Murray Hall.

It is our second build session. Last week (when the weather was much more cooperative), we went through introductions and began building a wooden prototype nest for mason bees, which are valuable native pollinators that can pollinate at incredibly efficient rates. Scientists are beginning to look at these bees as a potential niche-filler for honeybees, whose populations are beginning to decline.

Facilitating native bee populations is the main point of this project. If we can create optimal habitat spaces that suit native bee species’ needs, then that will attract a higher population of them and thus bolster the community of pollinators.

Mason bees — and many other native bees — like to make their nests in small tubes; in nature, this means hollowed out stems, old beetle holes and natural cavities in wood. In the Maker Space, this means pre-bought cardboard tubes and parchment paper rolled around a pencil and stuck through a hole drilled into a 2×4.  These tubes would be the center point of our individual projects.

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We started this build session by working on ideas and beginning prototypes for a nest made of thin metal. Tubes would be inserted into an area in the middle, but otherwise we had the chance to make our metal nest into a sculpture. We started off by creating our designs in paper; I carefully drew, cut, and taped together various pieces of pseudo-metal together to create a delicate flower pattern with lots of pointed petals. I liked the layered look to it, and I couldn’t wait to see how it would look when it was shiny and well put together. The other makers had a lot of really neat ideas as well; every now and then I would sneak a peek at someone else’s prototype — very surreptitiously, of course, — and find myself mentally applauding their work. My first thought had gone to making a tin flower since my mind automatically equated bees with flowers, but others had gone in different directions. One girl was fashioning her paper nest into a hot air balloon. Another was carefully copying the likeness of an Alice in Wonderland character. The creature’s long nose was where the bees’ nest tubes would go.  I was beginning to understand how this workshop was just as much about creative thought as it was about species conservation.

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Once our paper prototypes were finished — I was very happy with mine. Although I wouldn’t go so far as to say I don’t have an artistic bone in my body, that bone is probably the size of my pinkie toe. My artistic background comes from my work in technical theater; there, we were given a plan and we brought it to life. This was all very different; I had to make my own plan and then be responsible for it. It was a very big change.

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The next thing we did was finish our wood nests for the Bee Hotel from the first build session. I think that we’re going to put all of our finished wood nests together to make a giant one; think a Ritz Carlton for native pollinators. It’s gonna look super dope.  Nissa and I were making one together, and we finished it easily. We were old pros at this point after working on it during the last build session.  It was a cool looking nest; kind of curvy and symmetrical. If I was a mason bee, I’d definitely want to live there.

We also started planning out our Capstone project and discussing ways to share our project with the community. I’m excited to see how those conversations will evolve as time goes on.

Until next time!

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