UNITY — More than 200 species of bees live in New England. Many people are familiar with honeybees and bumblebees, but most of our native bees are solitary ground nesters.

Bees are vital to our food supply, as they pollinate 87 of our agricultural crops, accounting for 35 percent of our current food production. The pollination services they provide to native and agricultural plants make bees extremely important and beneficial to humans.

Middle and high school students in Sullivan County had the opportunity to learn more about these native bees and their ecological importance this spring through the Sullivan County Conservation District’s (SCCD) Seed Packet Art Project. The theme this year was Busy Bees.

Students from Newport Middle School, Claremont Christian Academy, Allison Veto Artist Studio, and New England Classical Academy submitted 52 colorful works of art. Their art was showcased on the front of the Native Pollinator Seed Packets sold through the SCCD Spring Plant Sale and given to local educators to plant with students to increase pollinator habitat in their school yards.

These students are spreading the word about native bee conservation through their art work. Planting wildflower gardens and creating bee hotels are other ways individuals can support bee diversity.

A bee hotel is simply a collection of sticks suitable for bees to live in. Bee hotels can vary in size, style and composition, depending on what type of bees you are hoping to attract and the number of guests you wish to entertain.

Bee hotels are usually constructed near wildflower gardens, so the bees have food nearby. When planting gardens for pollinators, the goal is to have some kind of flower blooming the whole growing season. You can see an example of a native pollinator garden and bee hotel at the SCCD Community Garden located at the Eco Ag Center, part of the Sullivan County Complex, in Unity.

The students’ original art work is currently on exhibit at Saint Gaudens National Historic Park in the Caretaker’s Garage and will be on display for the entire month of July. Make sure to plan a visit to Cornish to view the art exhibit and maybe even observe a bee at work in the many gardens there.

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