Bee populations worldwide have been under siege for nearly a decade, due to climate change, disease, parasites and – the main culprit -insecticides. The most sophisticated of these are neo-nicotinoids, chemicals that distort wild bees’ sense of direction so they collapse before they can deliver the pollen to their queens. Furthermore, the chemicals contaminate the nectar, which has farmers of almonds, cucumbers and apples panicking. Since so many plants, and therefore animals, depend on the work of bees, nations are finally taking action. The European Union is restricting the use of neo-nicotinoids, while the U.S.’s Environmental Protection Agency is re-evalutating its authorization of them.
Meanwhile, a number of architects have been inspired to help wild bees (a.k.a. pollen bees) thrive in the open. Last September, AtelierD, of Sélestat, France, constructed a 20‑square-metre pavilion for bees during the Muttersholtz Archi Festival, an architecture and design show in northeastern France that focuses on sustainable building and eco-tourism. Since wild bees lodge in cavities above ground – making their crippled population even more vulnerable when buildings are erected in their natural habitats – the K-abeilles Hotel replicates these nooks, attracting the buzzing critters to a safe haven free of insecticides.
The wooden structure features a honeycombed grid facade, with 15 of the compartments densely packed with hollow bricks, twigs, reeds, bark and hay, creating inviting refuges. To enhance the project’s educational mandate, the firm installed a shaded area complete with charming hexagonal benches and storage, so the bravest visitors can catch the action front and centre.
Like other design-led initiatives, including Buffalo’s Bee Tower (a permanent seven-metre-tall “live-work” space for bees in the former industrial site of Silo City), the K-abeilles Hotel, while temporary, sends a strong message via a striking design: that it’s in everyone’s interest to protect bees from extinction.