'Interest has been overwhelming': Important solitary bees are drawing a crowd to Lake Zurich library
Local programming at the Ela Area Public Library in Lake Zurich has merged with a national initiative to support the environment.
"This is our big bee week," library Executive Director Lauren Rosenthal said. "The interest has been overwhelming."
The library is partnering with Rotary Club of Lake Zurich this week on programs about the importance of solitary bees, which make up the vast majority of Illinois bees.
Unlike the more familiar honeybees and bumblebees, solitary bees don't live in hives. The most common is the mason bee, which emerges early in the season, has an affinity for yellow, blue and purple blooms, and, like other pollinators, could use your help.
Mason bees find stems with a soft center to nest and lay eggs. One of the programs this library is offering will show patrons how to build a DIY mason bee home, which contains a series of exposed reed-like tubes, at the library's Forge makerspace. Materials include paper tubes, paper, natural wood and clay, and steel cans.
"We'll have 50 of these built and put them in the library district everywhere we can," Rosenthal said.
Sessions scheduled for Thursday and Friday filled quickly, but Rosenthal encourages anyone interested to get on the waiting list.
"We'd like to add more sessions," she said. "It's not like cutting out pieces of construction paper."
Patrons also can learn how to use the Glowforge laser printer to create a custom "Welcome to our hive" sign to take home (supplies included) or make bee magnets or a beehive to decorate. Visit eapl.org for details.
The Rotary Club of Lake Zurich has partnered with the library on various initiatives. After Rotary International launched a focus on the environment, the local club in November formed an environment task force, club President Subbarao Mandavilli said.
The library was exploring the bee house idea and the club thought it was perfect timing for a partnership, he said.
Rosenthal, a Rotary member, got the idea for a bee program after reading about an increase in sightings of the federally endangered rusty patched bumblebee in Lake County.
Bee populations in general have had it tough due to loss of habitat and the use of pesticides, experts say. About 40% of bees are facing extinction, according to the library.
Mandavillli quotes Albert Einstein as saying that if bees disappeared, man would have no more than four years to live.
Mason bees emerge from the winter earlier than other species and are important for pollinating early blooming fruit trees and shrubs, said Nicole Flowers-Kimmerle, an educator with the University of Illinois Extension.
She's giving a Zoom presentation at 7 p.m. Wednesday on native pollinators. To register, visit https://eapl.libnet.info/event/8057240.
Mason bees are around for only four to six weeks to build a nest, lay eggs and gather pollen.
"Because they don't have a hive to protect, they're not very aggressive. They just want to avoid you and get their work done," Flowers-Kimmerle said.