For the Bees@Schools program to work, we collaborate with incredible teachers and students from many schools across Canada. Nest box construction and sample processing takes place at the Centre for Biodiversity Genomics at the University of Guelph.
Step 1: Nest Box Construction
Nest boxes were constructed using Dr. Scott MacIvor‘s design. Each nest box is made from a 30cm long piece of 10cm wide PVC pipe, capped on one end. The open end is cut at an angle to protect the cardboard tubes from rain. Inside the pipe are 30 cardboard tubes, 10 each of 3 different sizes. The different sizes can accommodate differently sized bees. You can find a video of the assembly process here.
Making over 200 nest boxes is a huge job and could not have been done without the help of my many volunteers. Thank you to Sam, Emily, Sarah, Elaina, Phil, and Albert for the immense amounts of help and fun.
Step 2: Installation
The nest boxes are sent to elementary and high schools all across Canada. In 2019, 83 nest boxes were sent out, and in 2020, 207 nest boxes were distributed! In 2019, all nest boxes were installed on school properties. However, with the unprecedented arrival of COVID-19 in 2020, nest boxes were often installed at teachers’ home addresses to facilitate online inclusion of the students.
Below are links to download the instructions for nest box installation. It is important to follow the instructions so that the nest is as enticing as possible for nesting bees.
Step 3: Sample Processing
At the end of the summer, all nest boxes are returned to the University of Guelph so that samples can be processed. The cardboard tubes are opened and the bee larvae and pollen is removed (video of this process here).
DNA barcoding is used to identify the bee species that nested and what types of flowers they brought back to provision their larvae with. DNA barcoding is a multi-step process to identify species which uses specific areas of DNA which have a ‘barcoding gap.’ This means that within the same species, that area of DNA is mostly the same, but in other species, it is quite different. This technology will allow us to identify and link the bees to the pollen they collected.