Environmental design instructor Danielle Bilot is creating a buzz about native bees in Albuquerque. 

Bilot spoke to Burqueños on Wednesday about how to increase the diversity of native bee species in urban environments. 

“It’s our responsibility to change it because we did it to them, whether honey bees or native bees,” Bilot said. “We did this to them, so now it’s our chance to fix it.”

Bilot is an instructor at the University of Colorado Boulder and the founder of the Forgotten Hive, a course at the university focused on creating habitats for native bees in under-utilized urban areas.

According to Bilot, many bees are unable to get from one food source to the next because the food source is farther than their maximum flight distance, which could potentially kill them. Due to their abundance in urban settings, she suggests that parking lots could be the answer to creating diversity in the bee population. 

In her presentation, she spoke to this idea and the way native bees need sustainable resources to pollinate properly. She says it’s not enough to just have native plants in parks, but there has to be more diversity of areas for bees to choose from.

Bilot demonstrated the projects that she has done at the University of Colorado with architecture and design students who were passionate about creating habitats for native bees.

She went through several steps in order to begin creating her native pollinator habitats. 

First, she conducted research on the native bees in the area around campus. Then the students in her class presented design blueprints based off of their research for the site they are working on. 

Finally, after making final design plans, the building process began. It is complete with organic soil, and native flowers and plants. The team adds signs about the Forgotten Hive on the site to get the community involved as the cherry on top of the project. 

“We aren’t trying to change how people live their lives,” Bilot said. “We are just trying to change how they look at it.”

Bilot said that the nitty-gritty details are essential to making sure the site is successful. Considerations like funding, irrigation, proper training for maintenance staff and media coverage are all pieces in the puzzle of making sure the site lasts.

“It shouldn’t be rocket surgery,” Bilot said. “Which I think is much harder than rocket science.”

Bilot said the goal at the University of Colorado with The Forgotten Hive is to expand, not only in Boulder but in other metropolitan cities as well. 

“If you build it, they will come,” Bilot said. 

Bilot finished her presentation with a tip for the crowd, suggesting that backyards and balconies can be just as essential to native bee pollination as creating sites in parking lots. 

“Really, all we have to do is start thinking outside the hive,” Bilot said, concluding her two-hour long presentation. 

Her talk was part of the Albuquerque BioParks’ summer pollinator lecture series, coordinated by New Mexico State University College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences. 

Burque Bee City USA

Albuquerque is one of 82 Bee City USA affiliates. According to their website, Bee City USA “endorses a set of commitments, defined in a resolution, for creating sustainable habitats for pollinators.”  

Local organization Think Like a Bee and the New Mexico Beekeepers Association worked with the Albuquerque city council on getting the city this designation in 2018, and a renewal in 2019.  

Last May, the city began to incorporate native New Mexican plants in medians in order to help both native and honey bee populations. Not only do the medians help foster bee diversity and increase populations, but it also reduces the use of water as well as herbicides and pesticides. 

Albuquerque is also working to educate the public about honey and native bee populations. In addition to several workshops and speakers, an Annual Pollinator Event is held in June of each year in The Open Space Visitor Center in celebration of National Pollinator week. 

To learn more about native pollinators in New Mexico, New Mexico State University provides a pocket guide to native bees in New Mexico. 

Alanie Rael is Co-Sports Editor and a reporter for the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at sports@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @AllyRael.

Makayla Grijalva is the Managing Editor for the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at managingeditor@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @MakaylaEliboria.