How 'birdhouses for bees' can help pollinators in peril

September 16, 2019

Most of us have heard that bees are disappearing. And that’s not good news for our gardens or food supply. Senior Kaitlyn Tatro and the Environmental Interpretive Center have a plan for aiding bees and other insect pollinators. And, if you choose, it could involve your backyard.

A letter M made out of wood.

This article was originally published on September 16, 2019.

Kaitlyn Tatro wants to save the bees. Well, she’d like to save the planet. And pollinators just seem like a logical place to start.
“Pollinators are amazing creatures we benefit from every day. They save us billions of dollars in food production because they work for free. Sometimes we forget about them,” she says. “We get so tied up in our society that we forget we are part of the larger world. I’m trying to do something to remind us that we need to look out for the life that exists outside our window.”
To do this, the Environmental Interpretive Center (EIC) and Tatro, an EIC intern, are launching the PolliNation Project, a community and campus initiative to teach us what we can do and why we’d want to help pollinators out.
The project is supported by a $25,000 Ford College Community Challenge Grant, which is designed to inspire college students to take action in community-building projects focused on addressing pressing local needs.
“Kaitlyn came up with this idea on her own. And the grant, it’s the first one she’s written, is one of 10 nationally that were awarded this year,” says EIC Director David Susko. “We are really proud of the work that she’s doing here.”
Tatro appreciates that a large organization like the Ford Motor Company Fund is investing in environmental projects. “It’s promising that there are major players in this large complicated game of recognizing environmental issues who realize we need to take action. I appreciate Ford Motor Company Fund’s support in helping us educate our communities about the life around us.”
Currently, the EIC staff is busy building 180 insect hotels for community use. The shelters — which Tatro calls “birdhouses for insects” — are built out of wood and have natural fillers such as wood, bamboo and bark. There’s one on the south side of the center if you’d like to check it out.

 physical shelter alone isn’t going to save the pollinators. So EIC staff and students are planning spring 2020 workshops to teach people about the benefits of having pollinators in the garden, what to do to attract them and how to aid pollinator population growth. For those still interested in the cause after the workshop, applications for free insect hotels will be available.
The EIC is also working with 15 Healthy Dearborn-affiliated public schools to do an educational program for kids in the community, which will include the installation of an insect hotel for the school gardens that the EIC recently helped create at each.
In addition to the EIC, several campus areas are involved with the PolliNation Project.
College of Engineering and Computer Science students are working on an app that can help people with insect hotels in their yards identify pollinators and report sightings. And students studying Geographic Information Systems will take that app’s information and create an interactive online database and map featuring insect hotel locations, plant species on site, types of pollinators observed at each site and more.
“I believe that everyone innately loves the environment and wants to contribute, but might not be aware of what they can do to help. Everyone we asked to help on campus is enthusiastic about it,” she says. “It’s important for these small projects to pop up to teach something new or different on how we can interact with the creatures that evolved alongside of us. This might not change the world, but it’s an action in the right direction.”