Recently installed on the site of Old Mud Creek Farm, an organic and regenerative farm in the Hudson Valley, the stunning Pollinators Pavilionis an education center and a new type of inhabitation for solitary bees.
This innovative work of design architecture by Ariane Lourie Harrison intertwines art, engineering, science, technology and agriculture. It’s also an example of biomimicry: the pavilions design is inspired by the bees’ compound eye.
The Pollinator Pavilion offers inhabitation for 4,000 solitary bees in a structure of over 300 cast concrete panels. The pointed form of each panel serves as both a rain canopy for the nesting tubes and a storage space for the solar-powered monitoring platform. Motion sensors at the base of the canopy, when triggered by insect movement, prompt an endoscopic camera to photograph the insect. The images harvested by each panel feed through microprocessors into a database for a machine-learning system that seeks to identify the species without trapping and killing the bees. This monitoring system is a new type of field station.
While visiting the pavilion, when it was in the process of being installed, architect Ariane Lourie Harrison told me that this monitoring system will allow for a better understanding of the bees’ needs and wants, even to their preference in the positioning of each nesting tube, and whether the bees favor north facing or other.
The Pollinators Pavilionseeks to contribute to scientific literature on solitary bees to create a machine-learning database for the 20+ species of solitary bees that can be anticipated in the region.
Did you know that solitary bees are stingerless, do not live in colonies, produce honey or have a queen and are responsible for 70% of global non-agricultural pollination. Solitary bees are easily overlooked but they are known to pollinate plants more efficiently than honeybees. They provide an essential pollination service, pollinating our crops and ensuring that plant communities are healthy and productive. Without them mammals and birds would not have the seeds, berries or plants on which they depend: in fact, approximately one in three mouthfuls of food and drink require pollination.
How the nesting tubes are used: each female bee lays 20 to 30 eggs during her life. When a bee finds a nest she will collect materials to create the cell for her first egg: a ball of pollen stuck together with nectar for each larvae to eat until it develops into an adult bee. She places the ball inside the cell and lays an egg on top, leaving space for the larvae to grow into an adult bee. She builds a partition wall and repeats the process until the whole tube is filled, leaving a space at the entrance of the tube empty before closing it off and moving on to another tube. Females choose whether to lay male or female eggs: since males emerge a couple of weeks before the females she lays all the females at the back and males at the front.
Solitary bees spend their early months hidden in the nest growing. They then spend the winter as a cocoon (or pupa) before emerging the following spring or early summer as adults. Once the adult bees have mated, the female looks for a suitable nest and the cycle repeats itself.
Pollinator Pavilioninformation provided by The Frank Institute Inc. @CR10, Ariane Lourie Harrison and Harrison Atelier
Solitary bee info from www.growwilduk.com
Photo credit: Priscilla Woolworth