Bees might not be considered as pretty as butterflies or hummingbirds. And of course their potential to sting can strike fear into people. But they play a crucial role in producing the fruits and vegetables we eat.
In the last decade, the population of pollinators, such as bees, has been on the decline in the United States. Recently, Aaron Mann, a junior studio art major at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, teamed with a program called P.A.U.S.E., which stands for Pollinators/Art/Urban Agriculture/Society/and the Environment, and works to reverse the trend of declining pollinators. It is a joint program between Saint Louis Zoo, National Museum of Kenya and Tohono Chui Park in Tucson, Ariz. The P.A.U.S.E. program in St. Louis was overseen by scientists from the zoo.
Since November Mann has made trips to the zoo to meet with other participants from area colleges to design and build a pollinator-friendly habitat sculpture. The finished product is a large two-flower sculpture made of wood and recycled materials including wires and bicycle parts. This summer the sculpture was placed in a community garden in Florissant, Mo.
“The sculpture will be a home for bees to live and nest in,” Mann said. “It will draw them into the garden, and they will pollinate the flowers and anything the gardeners plants.”
Mann and the other participants took the sculpture from concept to construction. He helped design, build, paint and even weave wires into the sculpture. And for him the project was a perfect melding of his interest areas.
“I’m interested in the environment and animals. And being an artist I like to tie the two together. So, it just worked perfect for me,” he said. “It’s been a tremendous learning experience,”
Before the project Mann was fearful of bees, but through the project he has come to really like them.
“I’ve come to respect bees after I learned so much about what they can do,” he said. “That’s the whole point of the project, to make people understand that bees help us. They are not trying to hurt us in any way. They are doing their own thing, and we should respect them.”
The flower sculpture will have space as a nesting habitat for Missouri twig and tunnel nesting bees. It could also attract mason bees, leafcutter bees, cellophane bees and resin bees.
On June 29 the pollinator sculpture was installed at Florissant Community Garden at 601 St. Charles St., by Old St. Ferdinand Shrine.
University City (Mo.) Patch