As a retirement project I have started building Bee Cafes to help hungry and thirsty Bees on their daily commute. Bee Cafes are portable wooden planters loaded with Bee friendly flowers in bloom. They are placed to provide the pollen and nectar wherever they might need it to get from A to Bee without flagging. The plant containers I use are repurposed "single use" plastic water and milk bottles saved from our own domestic waste. My plan is to request each of my neighbours to give up one square foot of their garden to host a Bee Cafe so that we can eventually build a Bee Corridor here in Great Bealings.
In future to help the Bees most I'm hoping to site the Bee Cafes in places where there aren't any flowers in bloom already which includes concrete car parks where no-one will bother to water them. Bees especially need food and drink in times of drought so individual Bee Cafes are self watering from a hidden reserve.
Bee Cafes are also stack-able so having built a stock of 75, I stacked them 5 high into four living walls and topped it off with a solar rain harvesting roof to make a shed - the Bee Cafe Shed. The shed is both automated and off-grid so once I've set it up I have the option to leave it to the Bees so they can bumble uninterrupted.
The Bee Cafe Shed also has anti-drought measures including a rainwater harvesting roof and sides and a 500 litre rain water sump hidden under the shed floor. Every day an automated solar pump circulates the water through each plant container which then returns to the sump so no water ever soaks away to the ground. During the two month 2022 summer drought each plant was kept moist purely with recirculated rain water without me having to resort to mains hosepipe top ups. Also an unexpected benefit is that when the water is running, the shed drops in temperature and becomes the coolest place to be - good to know in a heatwave.
Inside is a place to relax, do some potting, enjoy the cooling effect of the dripping water, listen to the Bees, play a little chess and maybe explore the cocktail tray.
The photos show each of the four sides of the shed in a different mode such as open to the breeze as normal, shaded, enclosed against frost with the clear tarp rolled down to make it like a greenhouse or finally for additional rainwater collection where the clear tarpaulin is extended and directs rainwater into a water butt. At the time of writing the rainwater sump is running low so the sides will be in rain catcher mode if there is even a hint of rain.
The final photo shows my grandson Ollie looking after his Bee Cafe.
Bee Cafes can be thought of modular Lego-style building blocks that can be stacked and arranged to make structures such as living fences, food walls and sheds. Each Bee Cafe costs about £10-£15 and takes 90 mins to build for anyone with modest DIY skills.
My main remaining challenge is keeping the flowers in constant bloom while the bees need them. I'm thinking of organising a rota for each Cafe which replaces the fading plants with fresh blooms. Also I've run out of waste plastic bottles as they have all been re-purposed - not a global problem I know - just local to our house.
Photos by Artist Remraf.