Conservation Sustainability

UNCA’s Bee Hotel

UNCA’s Bee Hotel

Photo by Nick Haseloff.

A New Hotel in Asheville Creates Cheerful Buzz

By Audra Goforth

Among the new hotels opening in and around downtown Asheville, a very special hotel was opened on the grounds of UNC Asheville’s campus. Last September, a unique structure of wooden boxes, located between University Heights and UNCA’s pollinator garden, was unveiled.

The Bee Hotel is a collaboration between UNCA and the Asheville Design Center’s DesignBuild Studio program. Bee hotels are gaining popularity around the world as the appreciation for pollinators grows. A team of dedicated students from both Clemson University and UNC Charlotte, who dubbed their team Studio Bee, collaborated on the idea of a pollinator habitat and worked together to create this project.

“There were a lot of sponsoring businesses that gave us materials to use,” says Sonia Marcus, UNC Asheville’s director of sustainability. “But the whole thing, kit and caboodle, was $5,000. That was the limit of what we could spend. Essentially people donated themselves to put the project together.”

UNCA’s Bee Hotel is ten by ten by six feet and constructed of mostly reclaimed and recycled material, supporting the campus’ motto of engaging in sustainability initiatives. Some of the lumber and cement blocks were left over from past building and remodeling projects, while other materials used were higher grade.

“The structure is made up of mostly steel and wood,” says Jackie Hamstead, environmental specialist at UNCA. “That makes the structure durable, but very heavy. The wooden blocks are this marine-grade plywood, which won’t release any toxins that could be harmful. Nothing that the structure is made up of will harm the bees.”

Students from campus clubs as well as Cathy Whitlock’s freshmen level class, Honeybees and Humans, interact with the Bee Hotel to support and monitor its inhabitants. UNCA’s Chancellor, Mary K. Grant says she supported the project from the ground up in hopes it would benefit the campus and community.

“I hope we use this opportunity as a teaching space, a gathering space, as a place to build community and a way to visualize our values,” says Chancellor Grant. “I loved the partnership of this project and am grateful for those involved.”

There are approximately 20,000 species of bees in the world and only seven are honeybees. While UNCA works hard to provide honeybees safe and supportive habitats, the Bee Hotel is specifically for solitary pollinators.

“Solitary bees do not live as colonies or produce honey,” says Phyllis Stiles, executive director of Bee City USA, “but like honeybees they feed their offspring ‘bee bread’ made from nectar and pollen. Solitary bees make a ball of it and lay an egg on top, and then create a protective ‘bubble’ around the egg and its bee bread.”

The Bee Hotel is not only a sanctuary for pollinators, but also a learning place for the Asheville community. Studio Bee created removable information panels about the project that can and will be updated over time. So take a trip to UNCA’s campus to visit the Bee Hotel. You will not need a reservation.

For more information visit sustainability.unca.edu, beecampus.org, beecityusa.org/resources and xerces.org/enhancing-habitat-for-native-bees.

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