A curious hotel in Costa Rica receives flying guests: bees of solitary and itinerant species that arrive in search of a place to reproduce and pollinate the flowers in the process.
A structure filled with small hollow logs and bamboo stands out in the central park of San Ramón, about 60 km northwest of San José. “Hotel for bees”, it reads on the main sign, under which numerous specimens of these stingless species enter and exit.
“A bee hotel is a place that can provide nesting for solitary bees, especially the species that habitually nest on dry or dead twigs. They require a place like a tube and sometimes it is a limited resource in the environment,” says Paul Hanson, professor of Biology at the University of Costa Rica (UCR).
In front of the unique hotel, hundreds of residents pass by every day, some oblivious and others aware of its existence. The architect Félix Esquivel, councilor of the Municipality of San Ramón, said that the municipality declared itself a “friend of bees.”
“San Ramón has all the environmental conditions so that bees can live in a balanced way and, of course, enjoy the contribution that they give us in agriculture and in the area of landscaping,” he adds.
This “neuralgic point of the bees”, as Esquivel calls it, was an initiative of the Municipality to turn the place into an attraction. “In Costa Rica and San Ramón we love bees,” he says.
On the UCR Biology campus, in San José, there is also a “bee hotel”. Professor Hanson and other academics started a project in 2019 to provide certain species with refuge for nesting and breeding.
“The bees that require this type of structure, the ‘bee hotel’, are solitary species, which are the majority. In Costa Rica there are between 600 and 700 species of bees, and 80 or 90% are solitary. It means that each female makes her own nest and they don’t live in colonies,” explains Hanson.
Next to the structure, in a nearby tree, the bees pierced the bark to make their own refuge and a few steps further on, a wooden honeycomb houses many other specimens.
The reduction of its habitat is a global problem. The UN points out that “almost 35% of invertebrate pollinators –particularly bees and butterflies– (…) are in danger of extinction worldwide.”
Hanson warns of various risks that end up preying on the ecosystem of these species and causes “fewer places to make their nests.”
“The most important of the risks is the loss of habitat. With urbanization and agriculture there are fewer resources, both flowers and nesting sites. Pesticides are also affecting a lot today,” warns the biologist. Hotels “are necessary,” Hanson says, because bees use them to carry nectar and pollen from nearby flora as food for their larvae.
“It is the future”
The buzz of bees around the hotel in San Ramón mixes with the cries of children playing in a nearby playground. Some walk past their parents and stop to look at the insects. “Look mom, the bees live here,” says a little girl as she crosses with her mother in front of the structure.
The youngest and the oldest are the ones who become most aware of the “bee hotel”. Juan José Alvarado, a 71-year-old retiree, says while his grandchildren observe the bees that “it is very important that children learn about this concept.”
“It is the future. If there is no pollination, there is no food, so the children above all should strengthen that and always support so that there is more and more pollination and fewer bees killed by insecticides.”
Also for Adela Mora, a 77-year-old retiree, the importance of raising awareness about the protection of bees is essential. “The bees in the world are being exterminated, they are killing them all, the spraying they do is exterminating them. So it turns out that with this (help) so that they reproduce (…) They say that without bees all humans will die and people don’t understand that and kill them,” says Mora.